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Ten best photos of 2012

December 10, 2012

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps is training women to mediate land conflict in Guatemala. Photographer Miguel Samper captured dozens of images showing these dynamic women in action leading community meetings. But I can’t help thinking that doing this work in a male-dominated society requires courage — and can at times be lonely. This photo of two of the mediators, alone in a large room, captures that reality. Miguel is a master in low light situations — here he uses the light coming in from an open doorway behind him to illuminate the scene. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps
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    Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Donatien and his family fled terrifying attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Central African Republic over a year ago. Photographer Sean Sheridan spent several days with the boy chronicling his saga and life in his family’s new village. On the daily trek to fetch water, this powerful portrait shows a boy who has grown older than his 13 years in a very short period of time. Photo: Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Sometimes a bold perspective transforms simple to significant. Sean Sheridan’s first few images from this series are excellent but taken at traditional portrait angles of Donatien and his brother playing their game. Then he was inspired to stand above them and shoot straight down. The result is this intriguing image of hands against the rust red soil of the Central African Republic, a reminder of innocence amid unimaginable strife. Photo: Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps  </span>
    This thoughtful moment captured by Miguel Samper in Colombia stands on its own as a beautiful piece of portraiture. But there’s more to the story. Jhon escaped life as a child soldier with the FARC militants and is now training to be a mechanical engineer in our rehabilitation program. In the other images from this series Jhon is smiling broadly, but here, Miguel patiently waited for a moment that gives us a glimpse into the emotional struggle he’s been through. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps
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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    As the drought and resulting hunger crisis deepened this year in Niger, this image of a Mercy Corps-sponsored well was a welcome sight. Cassandra Nelson used the high white light of the day to create an almost stage-like image. Taking advantage of a high shutter speed, she froze the precious water in a lovely cascade. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Sanjay Gurung/Mercy Corps  </span>
    One of the enjoyable parts of my job is discovering staff members who are talented photographers. Sanjay Gurung has been a regular and prolific contributor to our collection during his travels as a specialist for Mercy Corps’ governance programs. Sanjay has that rare gift of being able to make his subjects feel at ease in front of the lens. The result is often engaging portraits like this one of a novice Buddhist monk in Myanmar. His friend skipping in the background adds movement and visual interest. Photo: Sanjay Gurung/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photography is the art of lighting. On a visit to document Mercy Corps’ emergency food relief efforts in Yemen, Cassandra Nelson positioned this young woman where the light from the window of her home illuminated her, but kept the background dim. This makes the brilliant red of her headscarf jump out and allows her penetrating gaze to come alive. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Mathieu Rouquette/Mercy Corps  </span>
    My photographic training was in large format and the silver process. I didn’t shoot in color until many years later. So it’s gratifying for me to see so many photographers returning to the black-and-white format. By its very nature, a black-and-white image is abstract and draws the viewer deeply into the frame. Our Country Director in South Sudan, Mathieu Roquette, highlights the energy of this young girl. His use of the “Dutch tilt” camera angle adds motion to the composition. Photo: Mathieu Rouquette/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    At the time this picture was taken in August, the month-old Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan was already home to over 17,000 Syrians fleeing conflict in their country. Here, we are drawn to seven-year-old Wiam as she waits in line to be granted access to the camp with her broken suitcase and cardboard box of belongings. Every detail speaks to her harrowing story; it is one of the more moving images I received. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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    Toni Greaves for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Because photographer Toni Greaves had to protect the identities of women participating in our vocational training program in southern Afghanistan, she often focused on tight detail shots for impact. This one in particular evokes movement — our eye lands on the hard lines of the sewing machine, contrasted with the organic shape of her hands, arms and eyes peeking out from her burka. Her vibrant green fingernails are the final hook, symbolizing the feisty personality of a woman seizing new opportunity in one of the toughest places in the world. Photo: Toni Greaves for Mercy Corps

In 2012, we sent photographers to cover some of the most remarkable stories in 10 different countries, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Colombia to South Sudan. Managing Mercy Corps’ photo archives means I see every one of the images that are uploaded and emailed and shipped back to headquarters on hard drives from all around the world. Over 17,000 photos passed my way this year. These are the 10 that I won’t soon forget.