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Top 25 News Photos of 2021 – The Atlantic

As we approach the end of the year, here is a look back at some of the major news events and moments of 2021. The breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 set the stage for a contentious year in the United States, and COVID-19 variants and regional surges slowed worldwide efforts to return to pre-pandemic life. The delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were finally held, even though stadium seating was empty. The United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, leading to a chaotic evacuation and one of the largest airlifts in history. And natural disasters took the world stage once more, as record-setting wildfires and floods affected millions. Here, we present the top 25 news photos of 2021. Be sure to check back throughout the week for more comprehensive stories, presented as “2021: The Year in Photos, Parts 1-3.”
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on January 6. Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the building in a failed attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results. Photographer Leah Millis: “At one point I heard the crowd chanting ‘heave-ho’ and thought they must be breaking in through the doors. I didn’t want to risk getting crushed or injured by the massive crowd, which was hostile toward members of the media and had already assaulted several of my colleagues that day. I chose to risk climbing some scaffolding that had been erected for the upcoming inauguration to give me a better view. The Capitol had already been breached via different entrances, but the fight for this entrance went on for hours. Capitol and D.C. Metropolitan police officers engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the mob of Trump supporters and in the process multiple officers were severely injured. Four people would die that day and a police officer attacked by protesters died the next day. Four officers later took their own lives. Eventually, law enforcement was able to successfully push the crowd back. At 5:04 p.m. to disperse the remaining protesters, they used a flash-bang grenade, which released a blinding light that illuminated the U.S. Capitol building. To me, the explosion of the grenade captured the violence and shock of the day: American citizens attacking and breaching their own country’s Capitol building.”
Pro-Trump protesters storm into the U.S. Capitol during clashes with police in a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential-election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, D.C., on January 6.
U.S. Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman confronts protesters as they storm the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6. Goodman was lauded for his quick actions to confront and divert the incoming mob from the Senate chamber, where members of Congress were still being evacuated.
A nurse takes care of a patient infected with COVID-19, on January 25, in the intensive-care unit of Lyon Sud Hospital in Pierre-Benite. Stubbornly high new rates for infections, hospitalizations, and deaths fueled fears that France might need a third full shutdown, inflicting yet more devastation on businesses and daily lives.
Bianca Toniolo, 3, smiles during a video call with her mother, Chiara Zuddas, who was self-isolating in a bedroom after having contact with someone with the coronavirus, in this picture taken by Bianca’s father, who was in quarantine at home with his family in San Fiorano, Italy, on February 16.
NASA’s Perseverance rover descends to touch down on Mars in a still image from a video camera aboard the descent stage taken on February 18. The latest rover to be sent to Mars in search of signs of ancient life, Perseverance brought with it an array of new technology, including a mini-helicopter named Ingenuity. Both vehicles have performed well throughout their first year on the planet.
Stephen Mudoga, 12, tries to chase away a swarm of locusts on his farm as he returns home from school in Elburgon, in Nakuru County, Kenya, on March 17.
A handout photo shows the container ship named Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal in Egypt on March 27. Ever Given ran aground after being caught in gusty winds and became wedged in place, blocking the important shipping lane for six days during a time when the world was already reeling from widespread supply-chain problems.
Police detain a woman as people gather at a memorial site in Clapham Common Bandstand, following the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, in London, England, on March 13. Photographer Hannah McKay: “This photograph was taken following a vigil for Sarah Everard, a young woman whose kidnap and murder by a serving police officer in London a few days earlier unleashed a wave of revulsion in the United Kingdom. It shows a lone female protester, student Patsy Stevenson, being carted off by male police officers. It became an image that captured the national mood of anger at the insecurity women face in the United Kingdom and around the world. I had spent the day on Clapham Common where hundreds of people formed a ring around the bandstand where a minute’s silence was held. As a small group of protesters began addressing the crowd, the police immediately arrived to break up the vigil due to coronavirus restrictions. As it got dark the atmosphere changed, going from a reflective emotional mood to a more angry one. Patsy was one of the last remaining people on the bandstand and was restrained face down on the floor with her hands behind her back. It was dark, there was lots of shouting and she was clearly distressed. This picture of her on the floor was taken minutes later once the situation had calmed slightly. I continued to shoot for another hour. It was only when I got home, looked at Twitter and saw the reactions to the protest that I realized how important that image had become. Within days the London police faced backlash for how they broke up the vigil and Everard’s murder resonated with women around the world who have experienced violence and sexual assaults.”
Yoshia Uomoto, 98, reacts as her son Mark Uomoto and niece Gail Yamada surprise her with their first in-person visit in a year, after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted at Nikkei Manor, an assisted-living facility primarily serving Japanese-American seniors, in Seattle, on March 30. Photographer Lindsey Wasson: “When Washington State announced nursing homes with residents vaccinated against COVID-19 were able to resume in-person visits, I was able to visit Nikkei Manor in Seattle to photograph a family’s reunion. Mark Uomoto and his cousin Gail Yamada had come to surprise Mark’s 98-year-old mother, Yoshia ‘Yo’ Uomoto, their first visit in over a year, as during the pandemic the family could only visit through windows in the lobby. To capture the moment, I went up to Yoshia’s room with a staff member who told her I was there for a surprise and asked her to cover her eyes. With Yoshia’s eyes covered, Mark and Gail walked holding flowers and a balloon. Mark simply leaned over and said quietly ‘Hi Mom.’ Yoshia uncovered her eyes and exclaimed, ‘It’s so nice to see you!’ and reached for a hug.”
A man runs to escape the heat from multiple funeral pyres of COVID-19 victims at a crematorium on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, on April 29, following a surge of cases throughout the country in April.
A man is hit by a water cannon during clashes as people gather at the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos park for a party called “La Boum 2,” in defiance of Belgium’s COVID-19 social-distancing measures and restrictions, in Brussels, Belgium, on May 1. Photographer Yves Herman: “To contain a rising wave of COVID-19 infections, Belgium announced in March its third lockdown since the pandemic started, closing schools and most businesses for four weeks. Bristling at the restrictions, a group on Facebook announced an unauthorized party, or ‘La Boum,’ would take place in a park in Brussels. The gathering, which attracted about 2,000 people, was in defiance of the government’s limit of no more than four people together outside. The clashes between police and protesters took place in several locations in the park. The man in the photo, being doused by a police water cannon, is a former teacher who decided to take part in the gathering. He had begun to walk toward the police cordon as the water cannon was fired. The man was not seriously injured.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece plays a backhand in his match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during the men’s singles final match on Day 15 of the 2021 French Open at Roland Garros, in Paris, on June 13.
A staked child’s dress blows in the wind on Highway 5, representing an ongoing genocide against First Nations people in Canada, near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the facility, in Kamloops, Canada, on June 5. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 4 urged the Catholic Church to “take responsibility” and release records on Indigenous residential schools under its direction.
A group of 17 people, all of them Tunisians, wait for assistance off the Italian island of Lampedusa, aboard a precarious wooden boat in international waters, on July 25. Members of an NGO assisted more than 170 people who approached the Italian island in six different wooden dinghies before Italian authorities took them to land.
Rebeca Andrade of Team Brazil is seen in action during the women’s floor final on Day 10 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Center on August 2.
Mr. Lordi, a.k.a. Tomi Petteri Putaansuu of the Finnish hard-rock band Lordi, gets his second COVID-19-vaccine dose from a nurse, Paula Ylitalo, in Rovaniemi, Finland, on August 1.
A woman leaves her home threatened by wildfire in the village of Gouves, on the island of Evia, Greece, on August 8. More than 140 fires erupted across Greece during a heat wave, one of the worst to hit the region in decades.
A U.S. soldier brandishes his weapon amid a crowd of Afghan people at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16. As the United States withdrew the last of its troops in August, Taliban forces swiftly took control of most of the country, closing in on Kabul. Panicked crowds swarmed to the airport, desperate to leave the country before the Taliban takeover was complete.
A firefighter works as the Caldor Fire burns in Grizzly Flats, California, on August 22. Photographer Fred Greaves: “As a photographer covering wildfires in California, 2021 was one of the most challenging years that I can remember. A severe multiyear drought along with sustained hot and windy weather created multiple ‘mega-fires’ that were unpredictable and quickly consumed hundreds of square miles. It can take hours to navigate around large wildfires in remote areas, so proper planning is critical to make sure you are in the right place. I also have to wear safety equipment and check on weather conditions and local fire activity so I don’t become trapped. Firefighters were conducting a nighttime controlled burn to clear brush out after temperatures cooled and the wind had died down to protect homes that were potentially in the path of the Caldor Fire in Northern California. They lit backfires at the base of a hill, expecting it would burn at a moderate pace. Instead, the flames quickly raced up the side of the hill, creating the swirling curtain of fire that silhouetted one of the firefighters.”
Marcel Hug of Team Switzerland celebrates after winning gold in the men’s 5,000-meter T54 final on Day 4 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Haitian migrants cross the Rio Grande back into Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, from Del Rio, Texas, on September 20. As U.S. immigration authorities began deporting immigrants back to Haiti from Del Rio, thousands more waited in a camp under an international bridge in Del Rio while others crossed the river back into Mexico to avoid deportation.
A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuña Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, on September 19.
In this elevated view, people are seen walking through the flags of the “In America: Remember” public-art installation near the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., on September 19. The installation commemorates all the Americans who have died of COVID-19. It is based on a concept by the artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg and includes more than 650,000 small plastic flags, some with personal messages to those who have died, planted in 20 acres of the National Mall.
A house sits covered by a deep blanket of ash from a volcano that continues to erupt on La Palma, in Spain’s Canary Islands, on October 30. The Cumbre Vieja volcano has been erupting since September 19, sending lava into neighborhoods and raining ash downwind.
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I’ve made it an annual tradition to compose an essay of uplifting images from the past 12 months—an effort to seek out and recognize some of the joy and kindness present in the world around us, even in the midst of another tough year.
It’s time to take a look at some of the most memorable events and images of 2021. Events covered in this essay include the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, COVID-19 vaccinations for children, record flooding in the Pacific Northwest, and much more.
It’s time to revisit some of the most memorable events and images of 2021. Events covered in this essay include the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, vaccination drives worldwide, flooding in Western Europe, a “sea snot” outbreak in Turkey, and much more.
It’s time to take a look at some of the most memorable events and images of 2021. Events covered in this essay include the January 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic worldwide, a new volcano erupting in Iceland, and much more.

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