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Falling in Love With Everyone We Saw in 2021


Looking back at a year of pictures from the Styles Desk.

“After taking this picture, I asked Kim if she could see where she was going, and she said she could only see shapes and shadows, which I thought was just marvelous.”

— Landon Nordeman on photographing Kim Kardashian at this year’s Met Gala

“Healing is a lifelong journey. Healing, real healing, for Black people in this country will take lifetimes, generations. I held that bleak and truthful pessimism deep in my gut as I sat with the work of documenting these families. I’ve held it even tighter since.”

— Gioncarlo Valentine on photographing families for our April series on Black healing

“After 45 playfully combative minutes shooting Cindy Adams, squaring up last shots in the kitchen with her dog, I realized that I didn’t have any film in my camera. Can you imagine? When I confessed, she grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote out my full name with a pencil. ‘This way, if anything else goes wrong,’ she told me, ‘I can ruin your career.’ Despite the outraged twinkle in her eye, she patiently retraced her steps and indulged me in a lightning makeup round.”

— Daniel Arnold on photographing Cindy Adams


Perhaps it was a yearning to reconnect with one another during the second year of a pandemic, but Styles couldn’t stop gawking.

We took readers to a drag festival, a state fair and the Met Gala. We hung out at concerts and went backstage at couture shows. We peeked inside approximately 350 weddings. We watched people dance and cry, and let them introduce us to their babies. We went inside the White House, and dove headlong into the world of emerging TikTok personas. We found common joy in subcultures. We sent photographers all over the country looking for a language of fashion we could identify as “American.” We didn’t find one. But we did pinpoint a shared desire to express our values through self-presentation.

There’s something strangely satisfying about looking at pictures from the very recent past — they haven’t lodged in our long-term memories yet, and the tiny bit of distance helps us make sense of time. Maybe that’s why iPhone programmers have included a feature that pulls an assortment of images into little visual timelines, resurfacing photographs from years past. Like many of you who spend time scrolling through personal camera rolls, reliving just-forgotten moments, so too do we on Styles look back at the work we make each year and recall the snapshots that captivated us.

Look at all these people! These glorious, brave, strange human miracles! Outside, raising their hands to the sun; inside with their vanity, vulnerability and tenderness. With their pants hanging from their hips, in tumbling love with their friends. On horseback and boats, bikes and trucks. Famous and unknown, old and young alike, here they all are, being themselves, being seen by others. To take them in as a collection is to revel in the exuberance and courage required to exist in 2021.

“As Jen Psaki bent over to pick up some papers, I saw a moment that seemed to capture her iconic look in a slightly surreal way.”

— Peter van Agtmael on photographing Jen Psaki

“For many guests I spoke with, the Pyer Moss show marked their first time venturing out to a big, official event again. For me, it was the first event I’d photographed in over a year (after having shot several per week before the pandemic, for over a decade). The day felt like a triumph all around.”

— Rebecca Smeyne on photographing backstage at Pyer Moss

“Without a doubt, my favorite view of New York City is from the water. It’s even better when you’re with actor Matthew Rhys on his 1930s Wheeler Playmate slicing through the East River like a hot knife through butter. Just a step up from the ferry.”

— Peter Fisher on photographing Matthew Rhys and Kelli Farwell

“After spending close to a year in isolation, it felt like such an incredible sigh of relief to be able to go back out into the world and meet people as they are. I really loved how free Craig was, how much they embodied who they wanted to be without any fears.”

— Ricardo Nagaoka on photographing personal style in Portland, Ore.

“Several years ago, I learned of a multigenerational, labor intensive, traditional method of haying called beaverslide hay stacking, and I have journeyed to Montana each summer since to photograph the few families who are committed to this method.

Teams of workers communicate through hand signals and head nods. Their synchronized choreography is passed down from generation to generation. The repetitive, dance-like movements captivate me.”

— Holly Lynton on photographing personal style in Avon, Mont.

“I mean, it takes an incredible talent to go on pointe in sandals.”

— Erik Carter on photographing Sean Bankhead

“When I entered the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, I saw a little cutout on the steps. When I looked closer, I saw little whiskers hanging out. I started shooting in hopes to lure out whatever might be back there.”

— Krista Schlueter on photographing the Public Theater’s gala

“Parking in front of my building is illegal after 7 a.m. and I was up early to move a borrowed car out of the tow zone. Zigzagging down the stairs on two hours sleep, I ran into a rising acrid fire stink and coughed. Worried for my sleeping cat, I hurried up and checked the neighbors’ doors for heat on my way down. All cool but the stink got stronger. My building opens half a flight below the sidewalk, so I heard the big heat humming before I saw the garbage truck alone on fire, 40 feet outside my door. The sky was morning, the street was still night and it ruined someone’s day for sure — but I’ll admit that it made mine.”

— Daniel Arnold on photographing a fire in New York City

“Walking in Bushwick with David Arquette felt familiar. In a bizarre twist of fate, we had accidentally met two days prior in a Crown Fried Chicken when I asked to take his picture without recognizing him.”

— Sinna Nasseri on photographing David Arquette

“Malcolm pulses with sincerity. I witness his experience as a runner — how it encourages an acute awareness of his body — in how he privileges sensation as a means to know anything. He carries a palpable gratitude for feeling.”

— Elliott Jerome Brown Jr. on photographing the artist Malcolm Peacock for our April series on Black healing

“While the rodeo, like all sports, has certain dress code requirements, it was interesting to see how people added flourishes that expressed a sense of individuality, whether it be through a belt buckle won at a previous rodeo or by matching the colors in a shirt to the wraps around their horses’ legs.”

— Eli Durst on photographing personal style in Waco, Texas

“One of the first videos of his I came across from Instagram was Colm ice skating nude on a frozen above ground pool set in the courtyard of an industrial building here in Brooklyn. I thought, ‘I love this guy. He likes to be naked as much as I do.’”

— Isak Tiner on photographing the artist Colm Dillane

“Everyone in New York knows that if you eat a hot dog while doing some kind of physical activity, it doesn’t count. It’s like eating McDonald’s at the airport: In certain emergency situations, junk food, with its complex chemical compositions, has no effect on your body.”

— Chris Maggio on photographing bike style in New York City

“One Sunday, I was passing this group a gas station, and for that brief moment, they were immersed in their prayer. As quickly as that photo was taken, the prayer was over, and the rest of the world continued.”

— Jake Michaels on photographing personal style in Los Angeles

“I was thankful for my seasick patch when Captain Jonathan told us that it was the most windy day of the year. When Ann steered us past the World Trade Center at a 35-degree-angle, I knew I was in good hands.”

— Heather Sten on photographing the actress Ann Dowd

“I like to capture real life, there is where the magic happens.”

— Valerio Mezzanotti on photographing backstage at Dior


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