The Lowdown Hub

There was before. And then there's now. It came clear to us in different ways, at different times


As professional photographer editors, we are accustomed to seeing a little bit of everything: war, famine, fires, hurricanes, politics, suffering, beauty, silliness and sometimes joy. This year was different. Photography, and photojournalism, in particular, is regarded as a medium of reality. Reality became surreal this year and with it, photojournalism. Photography shines brightest when we are moved by it or it reveals something to us that we may have never seen before. We believe this selection of extraordinary photographs from the past year radiates that light. — the Washington Post Photography Team

There was before. And then there was after. It came clear to us in different ways, at different times.


JANUARY-APRIL

How we began

Maybe it was seeing an early report of a mysterious virus in a city called Wuhan, whose name suddenly spiked in Google searches. Maybe it was learning about the first confirmed U.S. case in late January of what would later be known as covid-19 — a momentary distraction from the Senate trial that would eventually acquit the House-impeached President Trump. Maybe it took the telltale fever and gasping cough of a relative or friend to drive it home.

Nothing would be the same again.

It happened with dizzying speed. Masks. Hand sanitizer. Trips canceled. Chasing rumors of toilet paper for sale. But something much deeper was taking hold. Vulnerability became the great leveler, a rare point of shared humanity as the pandemic widened.

The frightened eyes of a patient in northern Italy looked just the same as the frightened eyes in Seattle. The emptied offices and schools in Tokyo were little different from the retreat into self-isolation in New York. In languages around the world, the cheers and thank-you posters for the newfound heroes — from medical workers to grocery clerks — rang out with similar sincerity.

Everyone everywhere watched nervously as the numbers pushed higher. Feb. 3, nearly 20,000 confirmed cases worldwide. March 7, more than 106,000. March 26, a half-million and counting. And we can be the only ones to kill this virus fear ourselves.