“A painstaking selection process ensures that The Times’s annual visual review highlights the biggest news events and strongest images.” L. Takenaga, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Lesson Plan
Excerpt: From 500,000 Photos to 116: How Our Editors Distill the Year in Pictures, Lara Takenaga, The New York Times
“Umbrella-wielding protesters engulfed in tear gas in Hong Kong. A severely malnourished baby girl sprawled on a floor in Venezuela. The first-ever image of a black hole.
These are some of the pictures in the seemingly boundless photographic universe that Times editors scrolled through to define the year visually.
At The Times, the Year in Pictures is the result of weeks of near round-the-clock culling and editing.
And 2019 marks the most ambitious year yet for the project, led by David Furst, the International photo editor, and Jeffrey Henson Scales, the Op-Ed photo editor.
For the first time since 2008, the project will have its own special section in the paper, on Dec. 15, featuring an introduction by Dean Baquet, The Times’s executive editor. At 36 pages, it has almost twice the print real estate that it did last year, when it ran as part of the Sunday Review.
Beyond expanding the project’s scale, Mr. Furst wanted to ‘bring the photographers out from behind their bylines’ this year. To that end, Dionne Searcey, a political reporter who recently returned to New York after being The Times’s West Africa bureau chief, interviewed about 50 of the photographers.
Their quotes and anecdotes — about covering an Ebola outbreak, being in the center of violent protests, working in arctic temperatures — help explain what goes into their thinking before they press the shutter button… To be as comprehensive as possible, Mr. Furst reached out to every desk in the newsroom and The New York Times Magazine, as well as to photo agencies and wire services, for their best material.
He and Mr. Henson Scales also kept a spreadsheet of hundreds of individual photographers, painstakingly reviewing their published and unpublished work from The Times and other assignments, and came up with a list of the most important news events to include.
Doug Mills, a Times photographer who covers the White House, has shot more than 12,000 pictures since January alone, making the task of narrowing those down to 100 initially, and later to just two, a herculean challenge…All told, the editors went through over 500,000 photos… They pared down the photos and organized them in folders by month. Hundreds of images for each month were narrowed down to dozens and, eventually, to about 10.
The final phase of cutting was grueling. Mr. Furst and Mr. Henson Scales scrutinized photos side by side as they went through each month and then looked at the year as a whole.
Getting just the right mix of images was the most challenging part. The editors considered a number of factors, such as the impact of a photo or its ability to delight, and the variety of images in each month.
A beautiful, poignant picture could edge out a more newsworthy one, and vice versa… The designers avoided jarring juxtapositions, finding ways to balance moments of tragedy and levity.
Portraits, landscapes and aerial shots sit comfortably alongside hard news photos.
One photographer who came up repeatedly in discussions of the digital and print presentations was Lam Yik Fei, a photojournalist who has covered the protests in Hong Kong for The Times.
While most of the featured photographers are seasoned professionals, there are some fresher faces, too.
The month of June includes an image from the Pride Parade in New York by Brittainy Newman, a photography fellow at The Times who shot the event for her first big project.
When she found out she would be among this year’s photographers, ‘I almost cried,’ she said. ‘It’s really a dream come true.”
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Have students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Umbrella-wielding protesters were engulfed in tear gas.
- The Times editors scrolled through to define the year visually.
- There was round-the-clock culling and editing.
- Mr. Furst wanted to bring the photographers out from behind their bylines this year
- The writers had many quotes and anecdotes
- The final phase of cutting was grueling.
- Mr. Furst and Mr. Henson Scales scrutinized photos.
- A beautiful, poignant picture could edge out a more newsworthy one, and vice versa.
- The designers avoided jarring juxtapositions.
- Portraits, landscapes and aerial shots sit comfortably alongside hard news photos.
Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article. For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
Some Prepositions: at, as, across, around, by, during, for, from, in, into, of, on, to, over, off, through, up, with,
Umbrella-wielding protesters engulfed ___tear gas ___Hong Kong. A severely malnourished baby girl sprawled ___a floor ___Venezuela. The first-ever image___a black hole.
___the first time ___2008, the project will have its own special section ___the paper, ___Dec. 15. One photographer who came
___repeatedly___discussions ___ the digital and print presentations was Lam Yik Fei,a photojournalist who has covered the protests___Hong Kong___The Times.
Getting just the right mix___ images was the most challenging part. The editors considered a number ___factors, such as the impact___ a photo or its ability ___delight, and the variety___ images each month.
Reading Comprehension: Identify The Speakers
Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article. The first group to correctly identify all of the speakers wins.
“They put you in the photographer’s spot.”
“When you feel like you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you’re reminded that you missed a dozen different news events or these 20 photographers or these 15 projects in the newsroom.”
“We are always interested in finding images that really represent a particular photographer’s unique way of seeing something.”
“One of the big balances is news value versus craftsmanship and beauty,”said. “We’re always having to juggle those kinds of elements.”
“It’s like a Rubik’s cube.”
III Post Reading
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
- Describe the process of choosing the final photos.
- According to the article what is the most challenging part of choosing the final photos?
- Who found the initial stage of the photo finding process daunting?
- Which photographer came up repeatedly in discussions? Why?
Questions for Reflection
- Would you want to work as a photographer? Why?
- What type of photos would interest you? Why?
- What new ideas did you learn from reading this article?
- To See All of The Photos and Titles: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/world/year-in-pictures.html
Photo Group Activity
Directions: Place students in groups and have them view all of the photos. Each group chooses 3 or 4 photos and writes a paragraph explaining what they think the photos mean.
Questions for the Authors
Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3 questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.