[Best of 2015] The Year in Photography

Star Field Crossing, 2013, Susan Derges, using water, photo paper, and a flashlight

Photography is present in most people’s lives in one form or another, whether we’re in front of or behind the camera, or neither. (Shout out to all you art directors out there supervising photoshoots. We see you.)

Whether you enjoy capturing an intimate moment with a Polaroid, spending your weekends in a dark room, or playing around with iPhone photo editing apps, we all have a form we favor, even if we might not realize it.

Our relationship with the camera has undoubtedly changed over the course of history. And as the decades go by, technology and innovation have opened up new avenues for the field of photography. Artists are starting to test the limits of the lens and delve into new, creative ways to capture subjects, and to use their equipment. Context and setting are also being carefully manipulated, adding a performance art aspect to photography.

Here is a rundown of the new new in photography this year—the artists who took experimentation to the next level or who managed to evoke awestruck reactions from the world.

+ The highest-resolution photo in the world was taken this year of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the European Alps. When records are broken, it’s always a big deal. Especially when people go to such great lengths (or in this case, heights) to do so. The massive panorama measures in at a whopping 365 gigapixels.

+ Back in the day (like, way back), spirit photographs were marketed as being one of the only ways to see dead loved ones and reconnect. Nowadays, artists like JR Pepper are recreating this old style of photography not as an attempt to cheat people out of their money or prove anything scientific, but merely to create a haunting art form. These spirits are real people, friends of the photographer. JR Pepper’s spirit photography

+ Many people have probably never seen a bonsai in its natural environment, let alone one that’s traveled all over the world (and space). Azuma Makoto’s photo series follows a bonsai tree on its adventures to foreign lands, boldly going where no bonsai tree—and few men—have gone before.

+ Amsterdam-based photographer Sophie Ebrard spent four years taking behind-the-scenes photos of porn shoots. Her project It’s Just Love captured some truly heated, romantic moments and others that were simply two (or more) people doing their jobs.

Shiki I x Sand Dune, Azuma Makoto, 2 15

+ This year, a few innovative photographers experimented with photo-taking techniques that didn’t involve cameras. Ranging from 400,000 volts of electricity to human bodies placed on photosensitive paper exposed to light, they were able to capture some pretty bomb photos.

+ We don’t need to tell you how popular Instagram is. You already know. But did you know what happens when you repost an Instagram photo 90 times? Taking an app that’s so mainstream and well-known and finding something obscure about it to explore and exploit is what lands Peter Ashton’s I Am Sitting in Stagram  on our list.

Peter Ashton, I Am Sitting in Stagram

+ Art is about pushing yourself and your talents to the limits. Well, one Dutch art director and curator told students to embarrass themselves, all for the sake of creativity. The photos they produced were engrossing—some humorous, others melancholic. These artists lay themselves bare and exposed in front of us—something we rarely get to see from photographers themselves.

+ Alva Bernadine’s surreal nude photos boggle the mind. The women are reminiscent of mythical succubi. We know, however, that real women have heads and aren’t just creatures comprised of four legs, two butts, and high heels. Bernadine explains that he achieved these effects using double exposure and a black card in front of the lens. The mastery with which he employs these techniques, however, make for hyperrealistic seamless “human” creations. Most people just take straight-up nudes, but Bernadine takes it one step further.

+ Our year in photography would not be complete without noting Steve McCurry’s incredibly insightful tips on how to take the perfect photograph. It’s nice to have someone so renowned in the field throw us lay folk a few nuggets of digestible wisdom for when we want to photograph the hell out of our trip to Japan. Thank you, Steve McCurry.

Related:

[Best of 2015] The Year in Sculpture

Witness the Evolution of Photography in 102 Seconds

Pictorialism: The Movement that Birthed Modern Photography