Life & Culture

The Ten Most Visually Arresting Photo Stories of the Year

From Royal Ballet dancers to Romanian witches and 80s celebs in the tub, we revisit the best images we published in 2018

  • TextEmily Cameron

Polaroids by Nick Cave

With the aid of the ShakeItPhoto App, Nick Cave has been documenting as much of his life as possible. These sometimes vibrant, sometimes soft and hazy images feature his family, home, floral arrangements, a lot of art and a lot of balloons. Many of them are accompanied by anecdotes and wonderful observations such as: “Catholicism is so beautiful from a distance, like most things.” Head here to read more.

Tub Shots by Don Herron

A photo series that reads like a who’s who of 1980s New York, naked, and in the bath. Featuring both Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe, as well as Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn and Cookie Mueller, Don Herron’s portraits are intimate (obviously), but more so than is immediately obvious: as the models were given creative freedom to pose and style themselves within the bathtub. Head here to read more.

Hysteric Ten by Sawatari Hajime 

The presentation of Sawatari Hajime’s series, Hysteric Ten, at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in September was one of the most controversial moves in art this year. Here, the images, which feature a woman and an octopus, are accompanied Hoppen’s goals and motivations for the series, and an unpacking of the significance of the series in terms of culture, taboo, and the interplay of fiction, reality and fantasy operating in the images. Head here to read more.

The Boys of the Royal Ballet by Paul Phung

This photo essay, born out of The Unknown Soldier, a Royal Ballet production to commemorate the centenary of the end of WWI, pushes the vulnerability of the dancers and, implicitly, those who fought in the war, as many of them, according to Alastair Marriott and Jonathan Howells (choreographer and designer of the production), were younger than those in the production. Photographed by Paul Phung against stone pillars, the boys are, proud and confident, but appropriately dwarfed by the magnitude of what surrounds them. Head here to read more.

Morrissey, Alone and Palely Loitering by Kevin Cummins

Alongside the release of Morrissey, Alone and Palely Loitering, a book of previously unseen images by photographer Kevin Cummins, Another Man previewed a selection of the images. A combination of cadids, stage photography and organised shoots - in which, apparently, Morrissey had significant creative input – follow his career through The Smiths and into the first years of his solo career. Head here to read more.

Boys of Hong Kong by Alexandra Leese

Alexandra Leese’s photo series Boys of Hong Kong looks at young men who have in the surrounded by the western cultural masculinity that came with 100 years of being a British colony, and the opposing stereotypes of “the nerdy, effeminate guy, or a character like Bruce Lee.” The boys photographed are aware of and are, consciously or subconsciously, avoiding these ideas - shunning colonial ideas of masculinity in favour of self-awareness, uniqueness and their own, considered cultural identity. Head here to read more.

Bare With Me by Begum Yetis

The brilliantly titled Bare With Me, is the first solo series of photographer Begum Yetis, styled by Matt King of SORT Zine, and inspired by punk posters and bodybuilders of the 1970s.. The series presents nude, or partly nude, diverse bodies in a way that contrasts with Instagram – Yetis wants ‘strong, confident [and] honest’ from her images and models; to “present them as they are, without any retouching, and celebrate them.” Head here to read more.

Romanian Wizardry by Patrick Bienert and Max von Gumppenberg

Witches, cauldrons, candles and anti-capitalism – photographic pair Patrick Bienert and Max von Gumppenberg and Fashion Director Ellie Grace Cumming meet and photograph Romania’s contemporary witches for AnOther S/S18. The shoot became an impromptu lunch, due to the their cultural custom of feeding guests, as well as witnessing and documenting a ritual in their home on the outskirts of Bucharest. Head here to read more.

The Cure: Photographs by Richard Bellia

Richard Bellia photographed The Cure like no other photographer: his images are of a band “smiling and laughing,” not the moody, gothic band that has otherwise been preserved photographically. According to Bellia, the photographs came about “simply by asking,” the casual nature of which certainly comes across, with Robert Smith appearing “relaxed and lighthearted,” as we rarely get to see him. Head here to read more.

Untitled Portraits by Ian Kenneth Bird

Earlier this year, Ian Kenneth Bird, who has worked with McQ, Dior Homme, 10 Men and i-D, launched his third personal project – a book of meticulously cast, portraits, created with hairstylist Michael Harding, titled Untitled Portraits. Photographed in colour and black and white, dressed in plain white or black, with hair often taking centre stage, this project is an exciting emerging photographer working with total “the freedom to communicate.” Head here to read more.