Welcome to Day 20 of our pop culture advent calendar. Every day we’ve been handing out a little treat in the shape of a mini-blog on something or someone we’ve admired or thought worth noting in 2012. Today’s award is for the best image we saw in 2012.
We’re going to keep this blog short for one obvious reason: filling up a blog about the image of the year with a swarm of words is a bad case of missing the point. The image should do our talking for us.
As any longtime reader of our blog will know, we do love a powerful image here at Pop Lifer – one of the mainstays of the blog has been our Picture This series, which has featured pop stars (Alison Goldfrapp, Tricky), films (Jaws, Mulholland Drive) and current events (The Olympics, the Clegg Christmas Card Atrocity). So we were always going to choose an image of the year.
We’ve named it for Stanley Kubrick who remains, for us, the master of the lingering image, whether the long and winding road towards the Overlook Hotel, the eerie sterility of 2001’s spaceship interiors, the river of blood coursing out of the lift in The Shining, the stylised garishness of A Clockwork Orange or a masked Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut (okay, we’re joking about the last one, though it is distinctly creepy).
Anyway, without further ado, here is our image of the year
There were a lot of extraordinary images to choose from. There were dozens of stunning photographs to come out of the Olympics, a ridiculously large proportion of which featured Mo Farah smiling. The US presidential election created a few, too, whether the stunned and scary smile worn by Mitt Romney for his concession speech or the bowed head of Obama in his dismal first debate performance. And, sadly, the wars of the world continued to churn out horrifying and tragic photography, from grief in Syria to sadism in Sudan.
But the one that struck us most was this one taken by TIME photographer Stephen Wilkes to show the devastation wrought on New Jersey by Hurricane Sandy. We were struck by its eerie calm and cinematic beauty. It seems like an image carefully assembled for a disaster movie poster, with the ominous clouds rolling over the rooftops, the oddly empty looking city and the great gulf between the shore and the skeletal rollercoaster which once belonged with it but has now been snatched back by the sea. It’s a reminder, of course, of how fragile our civilisation really is when pitted against nature’s awesome and still unpredictable power. But it is also a perfectly framed, perfectly timed, perfect photograph.
TIME were quite right to abandon modesty and feature it in their top 10 images of the year. To see the rest of their line up and read a bit more context on how this photograph came about, go here. It’s worth your while, we assure you.