15 Most Powerful Photos of 2016

The advent of smartphones makes it hard to care about a well-composed photograph. It also makes it hard to pin down any one piece of news, or time in recent history, and actually focus on it. This method of scrolling through what you missed makes it hard to digest any actual info. Instead, the "skim" function in the brain takes over, and the information (for lack of a better explanation) comes and goes as though it was never there in the first place.

Here, I'm trying to pick good, exemplary photos of the year's biggest events so far. 2016 has been historic in the political world, in human rights, and in arts and entertainment. It's easy to argue every year has its fair share of news, but I think 2016 is unique  good and bad – and these are the events that have made it so. Please enjoy and I'm sure a new list will be out in December!

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15 A Russian Sukhoi Flies Over the USS Donald Cook, Anchored in the Baltic Sea

Photograph by US Navy

Not since the end of the Cold War have things seemed so tense between the USA and Russia. This is the closest both forces have come to one another since then, and it caused a minor panic attack for both sides. The US (apparently) had no idea it was coming. Although it led to nothing, you can never be sure with something like this. An act of aggression can be as simple as a flyover. In fact, something as cryptic as this seems like the perfect way to antagonize your enemy in a way they don't expect. It might send them in the wrong direction and give you an opening to attack. This is exactly what many officials have worried about since the incident.

I'm sure eyes are peeled to radars more than ever before, and we'll see Russians appear as "the baddies" in movies after a long period using countries in the Middle East.

14 A Refugee Boy in Greece Keeps His Eye On Macedonian Military Men.

Photograph by Alexandros Avramidis

The refugee crisis is the worst it's been in a long time, and Macedonia has ruled its perimeter with an iron fist. Here, a refugee boy who is stranded in Greece, watches the Macedonian military patrol their border for anyone desperate enough to try and cross. It's a tough job, and it's constant. Although it's not in the news as much anymore, at one time, this was the hottest topic of the week, and a lot of humanitarian effort went into resolving it, despite there being no respite from the overall issue.

Now that more time has passed, it's clear to "the experts" that this is one of the worst refugee crises in recent history, and there are consequences coming. Brexit has thrown another wrench in the EU's balance, and now so many issues are up in the air, everybody's future is uncertain throughout Europe. Here's hoping in 2017 it's a picture of a boy watching his friends. No fence, and no military.

13 A Fan Mourns David Bowie

Photograph by Chris Ratcliffe

Bowie's passing hit music in a big way. The man, who transcended "rockstar" and became an icon, dropped his final album, "Black Star," a few days before his death. It seems right that many of the songs contain lyrics that concern themselves with death.

Many musicians spoke out about the influence Bowie had on them, and how he changed the course of music for the better; however, he didn't just have a hand in music, he dabbled in acting, and arguably most importantly, he carried the weight of a section of the human rights movement for a long time. He was one of the first major musicians to cross dress, to never concern himself with gender norms, and this made him an available idol to anyone. This broad sense of self, and broad sense of the world, helps educate us even today. He serves as an example of what good can come from expanding your beliefs.

12 California Raises Minimum Wage to $15

Photograph by David McNew

California always seems to lead the progressive stuff, doesn't it? And while raising the minimum wage isn't as sexy of a movement as gay rights, it's important. The west coast is like testing ground for the rest of the country, and we thank them for it. I'm not certain what the fallout might be from raising the minimum wage (you have to know there's always fallout) but I'm excited to see the good that will come, as well.

To clarify, the minimum wage isn't $15 yet. Like anything, "the system" takes its time, and in this case, the increases will be incremental. The minimum wage becomes $11.00, effective Jan 1st, 2017. Then, over the next few years, it will rise until, finally, in 2021, it becomes $15, and people can make money bills rain without having to pick them up immediately.

This is otherwise known as "the good life." I'll see you there.

11 A Vigil Held For Belgium

Photograph by Christian Hartmann

The airport attack in Brussels caught everybody by surprise. I remember signing onto Reddit and seeing it right at the top. It became an ever-evolving thread. News poured in. Just like anything else, other news cluttered up what was truly important. TV shows aired, nightly news wove sports announcements into the breaks in rotating footage of the attacks. Everybody needs a break, I guess, because if we don't get one, attacks like this won't have the same impact. It's why people turn away from the 24-hour news formula. We're desensitized.

Still, no matter how many times you see bad news, it's heartwarming when the inevitable vigil takes place. It's beautiful.

I've been to Brussels once, but I won't pretend to be familiar with the city, or the kinds of people that live there. This, however, has given me a little insight into the kinds of citizens that walk the streets, and all I can say is I'm impressed, and touched.

10 Obama "Shakes Hands" with Raul Castro

Photograph by Nicholas Kamm

This brought some much-needed relief to what could've been a thorny meeting between famed rival countries U.S.A and Cuba. President Obama is the first present in 80 years – 80 years!!! – to visit Cuba. During the Cold War, Cuba was caught between its allegiance to the Soviet Union, and dealings with the U.S.A. It peaked in the early '60s with The Bay of Pigs; a botched invasion attempted by the U.S.A. The end goal was not to acquire Cuba, but to force Fidel Castro, then the country's Prime Minister, out of office. Some look at it as an assassination attempt.

Ironic that the first picture on this list shows us that the relationship between the U.S.A. and Russia remains tense, and this shows us the opposite: The U.S.A. yucking it up with one of Russia's old buddy countries, Cuba.

I think this is a good thing. The two countries should bury the hatchet... All I worry about is missing out on vacationing in Cuba before it becomes overrun with resorts.

9 A Woman Reacts to "Not Guilty" Jian Ghomeshi Verdict

Photograph by Mark Blinch

This verdict rocked Canada. Jian Ghomeshi, a famous radio host for CBC's program, Q, found himself in a Cosby-type situation, and not that long after, either.

The compounded effect of hearing one of our favourite sitcom dads is a horrific human being, and one of Canada's beloved radio figures might be just as bad, really sent North America over the edge. Like usual, more and more victims came forth until the evidence seemed insurmountable for the defense team. I am still shocked he got away with what he did. There are both verbal and written testimonies from many of his victims (many of whom worked with Ghomeshi) stating, in grave detail, what he did to them, without consent.

The woman in this photo, the anguish in her face, is the perfect symbol of a country's reaction to a controversial verdict. Even though this was a giant mistake made by the court, maybe all the negativity that followed will prove to them they need to take more time, and consider things a little more clearly. Maybe then things will progress properly.

8 Fort McMurray Wildfire Wreckage

Photograph by Tyler Hicks

The fire that raged through Fort McMurray sent Canada for a loop. The entire place is ruined, still, to this day. I remember seeing news footage and straight-from-iPhone videos (on Reddit, of course) from Canadians living in and around the idea, speeding down the highway in their cars. Facing forwards, away from the flames, everything looked fairly normal, but when they turned their cameras backwards, the scene changed drastically. It looked like a Mad Max deleted scene. I expected the flames, licking and spitting, to come burst out and envelope everything around them.

It was horrifying, and awe-inspiring. Now that things have calmed down, and many, many evac teams have been sent and brought back, we can look at this as a learning experience. We also learned that no matter where people are from they'll send support. There are stories of help coming from all different countries, many countries that have no allegiance to Canada. There's a silver lining.

7 Britain Leaves the European Union

Photograph by Hannibal Hanschke

This is recent news; recent news that spells as bad a situation for Europe as the refugee crisis – maybe worse. Britain, a major player in the EU, has officially voted to leave. Many traditionalists in the country had, in some people's minds, grown xenophobic, and they wanted to (in their own way) "make their country great again." Sound familiar? Many of the folks from Britain's younger generation thought, and took to Twitter to say as much. This is a liberal nightmare and a conservative wet dream. Britain's PM, David Cameron, just resigned, too.

The longterm consequences are unclear, but for now, most people are looking into straight fog. They have no idea what to do with themselves, and so they're going along, business as usual, in the typical stiff upper lip British way. Maybe that'll help them through a time that will, at the very least, be considered "tumultuous."

6 Police Stand Guard in Dallas

Photograph by LM Otero

This is the most recent tragedy. It's particularly disturbing. A sniper shot multiple police officers in Dallas in the middle of a #BlackLivesMatter protest. While it seems that the shooter was not a part of the movement, he seemed to have been involved in more extremist, and violent protest groups. The sniper, who I won't name, said he wanted to "kill white people, especially white police officers." He was fuelled by the multiple deaths of young black men at the hands of white police officers in recent years. It was an act of aggression fuelled by other aggression. These things never end well. Of course, there will be a vigil, and people will continue to react on Twitter, and President Obama will survey the situation and give an appropriate, weary speech about gun control and the state of America. He must be happy he's leaving. The country's in a state of panic, and every few weeks we get a symbol of that panic. Still, I'd like to reiterate what a lot of people are saying: statistically we have never been safer, it's just the 24-hour news that makes it seem like it's worse than ever.

Keep that in mind.

5 Pastor Holds Up Example of Flint, Michigan's Lead-Contamination

Photograph by Jake May

This is something that is easy to overlook, because it isn't as dramatic like a lot of the other issues listed here. Water in Flint, Michigan (and many other places in America) is contaminated. It's easy to say, "oh, well we just have filtration systems and that will fix that." Here's an example of how it doesn't work that way. This pastor got this water from his tap, bottled it, and brought it somewhere where he knew there'd be cameras. That's smart, because I think this is the best symbol we're going to get of how obviously ruined the city's water supply is, and how it affects the thousands of people living there. If it happens there, who's to say it doesn't happen in any other city in the US?

This pastor wants people to wise up about what's going on, spread the news, and latch onto this issue, especially when it doesn't automatically grab headlines the way guns do...

4 A Trump Supporter Stomps Protester

Photograph by Sam Mircovich

...Or the way Trump does.

Here is a picture of a Trump supporter stomping on a protester. This is the kind of faith Trump inspires. I remember a simpler time, when he was the amusing business tycoon, the oddball host of a successful reality series who spoke in that funny way. It's disturbing that things have led us here. He went all the way from laughable idea to concrete competitor to the Republican nominee. It's amazing in the way a building demolition is amazing. It's a spectacle, but at the end everything's in ruins. I'm afraid we're headed that way, even if the ride (for a short time) was kind of fun. It certainly provided fodder for all the popular late night hosts, who now are just as afraid as anyone else, so afraid they've launched nightly campaigns against him.

Maybe we should elect John Oliver as president next. I don't think anyone will mind Oliver isn't from her if it's between him and Trump.

3 Ted Cruz Drops Out

Photograph by Scott Olson

Speaking of train wrecks: Ted Cruz, otherwise known as the Zodiac killer. The movie they made about him, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is one of my favourites.

In all seriousness, by the end of his campaign I actually felt bad for him. A clown beat him. He, along with many other men and women before him, had to stand there and announce he was finished. Maybe he'll be back years to come, who knows. There are a lot of people who would've been unhappy with Cruz as president, but I'm sure that they had no idea how far Trump would go, and if they did, they might've supported Cruz a little more. Who knows?

I, for one, will miss him. It isn't because I agree with his politics, but damn it, if he wasn't one of the best suppliers of meme content I've ever seen. It was a real ride signing onto Reddit every day and seeing the same meme (comparing Ted Cruz to Eddie Munster).

2 Alan Rickman Passes

Photograph by Leon Neal

Let's take a break from the depressing political stuff (before we get right back to it) and consider Alan Rickman, an actor so great he elevates Die Hard from b-level action movie to all-time classic, and who, for many people my age (early 20s), feels like a kind of guardian. His turn as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series was and is incredible. Rickman was able to turn sketches of characters into full-fledged, painted portraits. Before Rickman, Snape was just a blank-faced, greasy-haired creep. (In fairness, the books hadn't given us his redemption yet). In Love Actually, he plays a good father and a poor husband. He's got the skill to make us feel for him and hate him, all at once -- especially because Emma Thompson plays the wife he cheats on. I mean, how could you? But it's not about that.

Rickman is in that tier of actor that gets brought up any time a conversation concerning "the greats" arrives. I doubt he'll ever be left out of it from now on.

1 A Vigil After The Orlando Shooting

Photograph by Spencer Platt

Originally I put Alan Rickman last, but I felt I was doing an injustice to the heavy news that's ravaged the U.S.A. That's not to say Rickman's death was light, but the Orlando shooting exists in a separate category.

It's tough that there are three attacks on this list, and I left out a few others so this entire list wouldn't read as a "why is it so hard to live in America" article.

There was the inevitable vigil I brought up. It's always there, and it's always sweet. There's really nothing more to say about them than that.

I think next year, people are going to keep an even keener eye out for things like this, and they'll try to squash them out. Here's hoping that's the case. Just keep reminding yourself: things are the best they've ever been, they're just not portrayed that way.

I'll make sure next year I write about happier events, like the new Star Wars.

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