How to squeeze a decade into 100 pictures

December 4, 2009

Reuters’ photographers shoot around 1,500 pictures a day, that’s 10,500 pictures a week, 547,500 a year. Times that by ten and you have some idea of the task ahead of me in selecting just 100 pictures to represent the very best of Reuters’ photography from the past decade.

In order to prevent the sheer scale of the project becoming overwhelming we had to be very clear about what we wanted to portray. Rather than telling the story of the decade we wanted to present the best of Reuters photography of the decade. Happily our photographers have produced many of the defining images of our recent history, so we found that our story was also the decade’s story.

Still the decision on what to include and what not to include was not easy. Conversely, limiting the selection to 100 pictures actually made the task easier. Some pictures stand out and stand the test of time. These shine so brightly over the years that it makes them impossible not to pick.

U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad April 9, 2003.  REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Cardinals’ vestments are blown by a gust of wind as they arrive for the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.  REUTERS/Max Rossi

Smoke from the remains of New York’s World Trade Center shrouds lower Manhattan as a lone seagull flies overhead in a photograph taken across New York Harbor from Jersey City, New Jersey September 12, 2001. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

As an editor, I’ve had the privilege of looking at Reuters daily production every day for the past seven years. Its been my job to select and highlight the very best of this content, through keywording and packaging. This packaging has created layers on layers of picture ranking that was vital in doing this research. First there are the daily Top Pictures, which are selected and coded by a team of editors. Then there is the daily ‘24 Hours’ package which highlights the top 24 images of the day. From this we make Pictures of the Month, and then Pictures of the Year. In this way all our best content is selected and packaged making big researches far easier. These Top Picture selections also form the building blocks for many Reuters visual projects, from the Our World Now series of books, to multimedia presentations such as Times of Crisis and Bearing Witness.

What went in?
A selection of this kind is never going to please everyone. Inevitably stories get left out, people get forgotten and fantastic images fall by the wayside. But somehow I had to select what I felt were the stories and images that defined the decade. So what went in?

– 9/11 and the ensuing War on Terror obviously dominates the selection. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan covered so bravely by our locally based Iraqi and Afghan photographers’ as well as our established team of war reporters have undoubtedly defined the decade, affecting almost every corner of the globe. Many truly iconic images have been produced in the midst of moments of extreme violence and tension in the course of these ongoing wars.
– Conflict in the Middle East – we have some amazingly talented and dedicated photographers in Israel and the Palestinian territories who over the years have produced consistently outstanding images. Selecting which to include from this region was one of the most difficult tasks.
– Natural Disasters – the Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes in China, Kashmir and Iran. These major disasters, affecting thousands of people, still invoke horror years later.
– Climate change, immigration, economy – issues that will continue to shape the world for the next decade.
– People – George Bush, Michael Phelps, Vladimir Putin, Michael Jackson, Saddam Hussein, Pope John Paul II and Paris Hilton. Politicians became superstars and celebrities reigned.

Iconic Images
Some stories were included because they produced such haunting and memorable pictures that they have become part of our consciousness of the decade.

A Russian police officer carries a released baby from the school seized by heavily armed masked men and women in the town of Beslan in the province of North Ossetia near Chechnya, September 2, 2004.  REUTERS/Viktor Korotayev

A young Afghan woman shows her face in public for the first time after 5 years of Taliban Sharia law as she waits at a food distribution center in central Kabul November 14, 2001. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

A would-be immigrant crawls after his arrival on a makeshift boat on the Gran Tarajal beach in Spain’s Canary Island, May 5, 2006.  REUTERS/Juan Medina

A man rinses soot from his face at the scene of a gas pipeline explosion near Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos December 26, 2006. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Other images have become world renowned images that will always be associated with Reuters.

Finbarr O’Reilly, a Reuters photographer based in Senegal,  won the World Press Photo of the Year 2005, with this picture of a mother and child at an emergency feeding centerin Tahoua, Niger August 1, 2005. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly

Reuters won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for an Adrees Latif picture of a Japanese videographer killed during a demonstration in Yangon’s city center September 27, 2007. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Arko Datta a Reuters photographer based in Mumbai,  won the World Press Photo of the Year 2004, with this picture of an Indian woman mourning the death of her relative who was killed in the tsunami in Cuddalore December 28, 2004. REUTERS/Arko Datta

A Georgian man cries as he holds the body of his relative after a bombardment in Gori, 80 km (50 miles) from Tbilisi, August 9, 2008. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

What Went Out
The choice of what not to include was made easier by always asking the question, ‘Will this be relevant in another decade?’ So bearing in  mind the competition for space in a 100 picture edit, we said No to Sarah Palin, Bernie Madoff and Dimitry Medvedev in favor of Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and Ariel Sharon.

SARS made it in favor of Swine Flu, and of all the tragic air crashes that occurred this decade only the iconic picture of a Concorde in flames passed the test.

Flames come out of the Air France Concorde seconds before it crashed in Gonesse near Paris Roissy airport, July 25, 2000. REUTERS/Stringer

Editor’s Choice
My hope is that every picture in this selection will touch, inform and move the viewer in some way, whilst being aware that every other editor would probably have selected a slightly different top 100. I personally have been touched, informed and moved by every picture in this selection and hundreds more that were left out. However there are a couple of images that particularly stand out for me:

A young girl walks with two bags of cold drinking water in Monrovia, Liberia, October 9, 2005.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A simple image that sums up many major global issues in those two bags of water held delicately in the girl’s hands.

Military and forensic experts inspect the body of a man who was killed outside a nightclub in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, August 31, 2009. REUTERS/Alejandro Bringas

A shocking and stunning image bringing to mind classical religious paintings of the crucifixion. It’s a chilling picture that stays with you, hits you with the same impact every time you see it.

Three women cool off on the beach at Algiers, June 4, 2006. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

A very painterly, beautiful image showing robed, Muslim women laughing and splashing about in the sea. It’s an image that people of all ages, genders and cultures can relate to in its almost child-like sense of fun and excitement.

As an editor, I’m incredibly lucky to work with hundreds of photographers who every day are witnessing and recording the most important events or our time. This package is a small tribute not just to those photographers whose work is included here, but to all Reuters’ photographers who contribute to a daily file that continually defines the world we live in.

Reuters will be releasing the Pictures of the Decade selection in a series of 10 slideshows showcased on On the final day, all 100 pictures will be displayed and we invite readers to comment and vote on their favorite images.

Various forms of the selection have been showcased on websites around the world such as Haaretz, Nettavisen, OE24, Tages Anzeiger, Morgenpost, Hurriyet, La Opinion, Portugal’s Publico, Berner Zeitung, DNA India, Spiegel, Sueddeutsche and FTD.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Excellent selection Lex, great to see it getting wide play.

Posted by CorinnePerkins | Report as abusive

The single picture, or more specifically, the single video that has burned itself to my mind from this decade, is the video of Neda dying in Iran.

Nothing even compares to it. No picture. No video. Nothing.

It’s *the* most horrible, engaging and important thing caught on picture or video in this decade.

No contest.

Posted by arcade | Report as abusive

As always, Reuters images are stunning.

Posted by andrewgould | Report as abusive

I’m a die hard Reuters fan and your pics say why.

Posted by rajibsingha | Report as abusive

[…] Bilder des Jahrzehnts veröffentlicht, die man u.a. bei Spiegel Online betrachten kann. In ihrem Blog erklären die Reuters-Kollegen jetzt auch ausführlich, wie sie aus den Millionen von Bildern der letzten […]

Posted by Ein Jahrzehnt in 100 Bildern « Marius Becker – Fotojournalismus | Report as abusive

To sum up these passing ten years:
The King of Pop standing in tears,
Five wars and a plane,
Michael Jackson again,
And the banks falling deep in arrears.

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive

[…] Associated Press e a Reuters apresentaram suas edições das melhores fotos da década. As imagens foram retransmitidas para […]

Posted by AP e Reuters apresentam suas melhores fotos da década « PICTUREDESK EDITOR | Report as abusive

다즈의 느낌…

보스턴 글로브에서 발표한 2009년 올해의 사진 120장 [#1] [#2] [#3]… / 로이터에서 발표한 지난 10년의 사진 100장 [#1] [#2] [#3] [#4] [#5] [#6] [#7]  [#8] [#9] [#10]……

Posted by thedaz’ me2DAY | Report as abusive

picture of the tsunami victim has enabled them with world help.job well done REUTERS

Posted by drdang12 | Report as abusive

Great pictures, excellent selection. But yes, Neda should have been included. Because the stolen election in Iran (so similar to what has occurred in the US in the past decade), and what her death symbolizes are crucial events in the evolution of freedom in the Islamic world, IMHO.

Posted by CatWhisperer | Report as abusive

1.The 100th year of the 20th Century and last year of the 2nd Millennium was definitely and indisputably 2000.

2.The 1st year of the first decade of the 21st Century and of the 3rd Millennium was definitely and indisputably 2001 – obviously. The clue is in the number ‘1’.

3.The 10th and last year of the first decade of the 21st century will be 2010 – obviously. The clue is in the number ’10’.

4.The last day of the first decade of the 21st century and 3rd millennium will definitely and indisputably be December 31st 2010.

There is an ongoing concerted and fraudulent effort by the BBC, Reuters and other major media players to deny these facts for cynical commercial branding and packaging purposes. This is an abuse of their position of information stream control domination.

Clear thinkers will ignore them and respect and express true and honest chronological facts and conventions.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,one more to go…

A whole year left to take more excellent pictures to put in ‘The Reuters First Decade Of The 21st Century Photography Library’.

Posted by TrueTime | Report as abusive

[…] 4/how-to-squeeze-a-decade-into-100-pictu res/ […]

Posted by A decade into 100 pictures « Roger Serrabasa Vilar | Report as abusive