2015 Pictures of the Year

Real life, real moments

About these photos

By Tyrone Beason
Pacific NW magazine staff writer

NEWS EVENTS HAVE a way of showing what communities are made of, but it’s also true that communities can act as a prism through which to better understand and relate to the news.

Images by Seattle Times photographers that were selected for the 2015 Pictures of the Year issue, in a year filled with big and often disheartening news events, offer plenty of evidence for either argument.

Record-setting dry weather in Washington state, for example, renewed fears about the effects of global climate change, but you don’t have to be a card-carrying environmentalist to be struck by Erika Schultz’s haunting Aug. 20 image of a threatened home set against the hellish orange glow of a soaring wildfire outside the town of Twisp.

Activists in kayaks tried to make a similar connection between global environmental issues and local concerns in May, when they swarmed a massive Shell oil-drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, which was moored at the Port of Seattle before heading to Arctic waters off Alaska. Shell has wanted to use Puget Sound as a launch base for exploratory ventures, but the idea has drawn loud opposition from locals worried about the risk of oil spills and the long-term effects of new drilling on the climate. Ellen M. Banner’s May 16 image of protesters surrounding the vessel in Elliott Bay illustrates how everyday people can give voice to issues that can seem well beyond any individual’s influence.

Sometimes the ripple effects of major news stories manifest in quieter moments, such as when hundreds gathered at a Hindu cultural center in Bothell on April 26 to say prayers for victims of a 7.8 earthquake that devastated parts of Nepal and killed more than 8,000 people. Lindsey Wasson’s picture from the event of a woman praying — her eyes closed, her hands pressed together — bridges the emotional distance between a tragedy halfway around the world and the grief felt here at home.

And then there are those human moments that tap into the zeitgeist, crystallizing notions that are hard to articulate.

Alan Berner’s evocative Aug. 8 image of “Black Lives Matter” demonstrators commandeering a downtown Seattle campaign appearance by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, who stands silently to the side with his head bowed, illustrates the sometimes-uncomfortable nature of protest even in a city known for gutsy acts of civil disobedience.

When a visibly baffled Marshawn Lynch scratched his head after the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 following a controversial final play, the searching dismay in his squinting expression, captured in a priceless image by Bettina Hansen, spoke for every fan. So did John Lok’s Aug. 12 image of Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma celebrating with teammates after pitching a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field, in a moment of unbridled joy we all needed.

Finally, there are life-affirming images that pull us away from the world’s onslaught and remind us that life goes on, such as Dean Rutz’s bittersweet Feb. 17 picture of people enjoying what turned out to be a worrying number of fantastic sunsets in this notoriously gray region.

Temperatures were in the low 60s, 10 degrees above normal.

The balmy weather that day was cold comfort for some, but it was beautiful all the same.

Tyrone Beason is a Pacific NW magazine staff writer. He can be reached at tbeason@seattletimes.com.
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