Our favorite art photos of 2021

These are the images that defined an unpredictable year in the world of art, music, dance and performance. A crush of vaccinated fans p...


These are the images that defined an unpredictable year in the world of art, music, dance and performance.

A crush of vaccinated fans pumping their hands with their bracelets in the air as rock music returned to Madison Square Garden after 460 days. A masked standing ovation as “Hadestown” became one of the first musicals to return to Broadway. A sweaty, thrilling Brooklyn party – social, not distanced.

It has been a year of reopening, with an almost palpable sense of darkness in the light in its most dizzying moments, many of which were captured by photographers for The New York Times.

There were revealing portraits: a royal André De Shields taking a break with “King Lear”; pioneering conceptual artist Lorraine O’Grady obtains her first retrospective at age 86; provocative artist and performer Martine Gutierrez in the streets of New York; Daniel Craig as his license to kill expired.

There were ambitious statements: Asian and Asian American photographers explored what love looks like in a time of hate. And there were images that simply fascinated or thrilled: a horseback ride in California, steam obscuring Lower Manhattan, a snail named Velveeta surrounded by miniature grocery stores.

Now, as 2021 ends weakly, with our photographers once again adjusting their apertures to the circumstances, let’s look back at some of the powerful images from an unforgettable year. MICHAEL COOPER


I was looking for moments that showed the daily dance of life, inside and outside the theater.

– Sabrina Santiago on the photography of the New York City Ballet dancers’ preparations for their return to the stage

I wanted to illustrate the ways in which life, though often obscured by the fabricated landscape, still surfaces, adapts, and moves forward.

– George Etheredge on Lower Manhattan Photography

A red sports car with the “FASTER” vanity plate roars. My assistant and I exchanged a look and laughed. It couldn’t be the subject of our shoot. A gangly man in a T-shirt and jeans with two pens in his pocket got out of the car. “You are the photographer,” he said. “You are Stephen King,” I replied.

– Philip Montgomery on meeting Stephen King

His physiology began a metamorphosis; his body began to lie down and stretch; his bones seemed to bend as his eyes widened. Her posture shifted forward as she summoned a series of screams and screams. It was both fantastic and baffling that the ship I encountered a few minutes before could be the hotbed of such terror.

– Erik Tanner on witnessing Shamia Diaz’s transformation into character

What is freedom? Are we going to continue to favor fame over the neighbor or are we able to bridge this gap?

– Chloe Pang in the photograph of Britney Spears supporters outside a courthouse in Los Angeles

Since there is no way to train a snail, at least to our knowledge, we must be prepared to let them move at their own speed. Sometimes we try to entice a snail with cucumber juice or sweet potato, but it often depends on the snail’s curiosity and what it naturally gravitates to.

– Aleia Murawski on working with gastropods

I loved talking to Annie about photography, motherhood and the creative process. I almost forgot I was there to take a photo.

– Gillian Laub on the photograph of Annie Leibovitz

She was fine art on a gallery wall. I remember taking a few test shots and then showing him before shooting on film – his response: “Ohhhh, I look GOOOOD!”

– Lelanie Foster on the photography of Lorraine O’Grady

I had made this portrait of Daniel Craig in February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic. It was a dream, incredibly present and charming, and became even more endearing when we started talking about our children, who are the same age. The article finally came out last September, and it wasn’t until then that I really recorded that I had photographed JamesBond.

– Devin Oktar Yalkin on Daniel Craig’s photography

Sandra put the music on “rap” and then they both jumped into the studio laughing and giggling. I said, “Close your eyes, don’t move, put your heads together – don’t laugh,” and that was the result.

– Charlie Gates in the picture of Amanda Peet and Sandra Oh

He was generous with his time, so we spent a few hours wandering along a cliff, stopping every now and then to take photos. I liked the idea of ​​creating something dynamic in the images so I asked him, quite simply, if he was going to fall.

– Robbie Lawrence in the picture of Benedict Cumberbatch on a blustery day along the English coast

The dancers and I co-created these images to bring visual medicine and healing spaces to areas named after presidents who relied on our extermination.

– Tomás Karmelo Amaya on Indigenous Business Photography

Six hours of Wagner? I was intrigued. As a photographer, it allowed me to slow down and explore how such a long production affected so many facets behind the scenes.

– Todd Heisler on the documentation for the Met Opera production of “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg”

You haven’t felt real sound if you don’t feel like your eyes are going to pop out of your sockets.

– Josefina Santos on the capture of New York’s famous music machines

He was leading the group as he would a group, giving gentle direction from the front, confident that others would follow his example at their own pace.

– Cole Wilson on David Byrne’s photography

I was preparing our next installation when suddenly he smiled and asked if I wanted to photograph him jumping on his trampoline. He immediately ran over to her, and my assistant and I had to grab our gear and rush out. There was so much joy and freedom in his movements; he was flying.

– Maggie Shannon on Zack Snyder’s photography

Ilana was on the brink of several big things in her life, and I wanted to visualize this transformation.

– Justin J Wee on Ilana Glazer’s photography

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