From the coronavirus pandemic to the anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd, Reuters photographers were on the ground covering the most important stories of the year.
Beyond the striking pictures, these are the stories of the women and men behind the lens and their experiences in the line of duty.
Below is a selection of some exceptional Reuters pictures taken in 2020 along with the stories behind the shots, directly from the photographers who took them.
Dylan Martinez: "The crowd parted right in front of me. I was in the right place at the right time, and incredibly lucky from that point of view. A Black protester emerged from the melee, walking briskly towards me, carrying a white man with injuries to his face in a fireman’s lift over his shoulder.
The anti-racism protests in London that Saturday had been fluid and unpredictable. After witnessing sporadic, minor clashes between demonstrators and police in Trafalgar Square, I switched attention to nearby Waterloo Bridge, where several hundred anti-racism protesters had gathered.
They took over the whole of the bridge. There was a traffic jam going from south to north, but the vibe was good – cars were honking and people were celebrating. The mood quickly turned ugly when they encountered a group of counter-protesters and clashes broke out.
I saw a skirmish and someone falling to the ground before the two men appeared through the crowd. Some people shouted out that the assault victim was a member of the far-right. Reuters journalists at the scene said he had been beaten in a skirmish with anti-racism protesters.
This picture went viral on social media and was featured in news bulletins. Patrick Hutchinson has been hailed a hero for carrying the injured man to safety during the scuffle.
‘It was the right thing to do,’ he told Reuters later. ‘We didn't want the narrative changed and the focus taken away from what we are all fighting for, and that's true equality.'"
9 Jun 2020. Pearland, United States. Reuters/Carlos Barria
A woman cries as a horse-drawn carriage carrying the casket containing the body of George Floyd passes by in Pearland, Texas, U.S,.
Carlos Barria: “The death of George Floyd triggered a massive wave of nationwide protests demanding justice and police accountability. But it was different this time, covering protests during a global pandemic. Each time we went out on the streets, we had to work hard to assess and minimize the risk.
It was very difficult to photograph people’s expressions as they wore masks, but as the horse-drawn carriage bearing Floyd’s casket passed on its way to the cemetery, I heard someone screaming. When I turned, I saw a woman without a face mask on, crying as she held up her phone.
I took a few pictures, but only later realized that the carriage was reflected in her phone, capturing all the elements to tell the story within a single frame.”
15 Jun 2020. Tal-Qroqq, Malta. Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Rebecca Zammit Lupi, 14, sits in an armchair whilst receiving a hydration intravenous drip after a chemotherapy session in her room at Rainbow Ward at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre in Mater Dei Hospital in Tal-Qroqq, Malta.
Darrin Zammit Lupi: "Over my career, I’ve seen my share of tragedy, drama, natural disasters, conflict, despair and other extreme emotions, but nothing could prepare me for my teenage daughter Rebecca having to battle Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare and extremely aggressive form of bone cancer, while the world was also dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The evening sunlight that filtered through the window blinds into the hospital room where Rebecca sat in an armchair receiving an intravenous hydration drip as part of her chemotherapy, and the blue LED nightlight she often likes using created a particular mood that reflected the melancholy we were both feeling.
This long-term project, documenting her treatment and fight against the disease, while simultaneously coping with a lockdown because of the pandemic, was unlike anything I’d ever photographed before, and became a way for me to cope with the very grim reality of what was happening.
At the time, my wife and I were taking turns to stay with Rebecca at the hospital for stints lasting several weeks. That continues to be our life – since the story was published, Rebecca has had to be readmitted to hospital for further intensive treatment after her condition suddenly deteriorated."
28 Jun 2020. St.Louis, United States. Reuters/Lawrence Bryant
Patricia McCloskey and her husband Mark McCloskey draw their firearms on protestors as they enter their neighbourhood during a protest against St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S,.
Lawrence Bryant: "That Sunday evening, several hundred Black and white protesters walked through an open gate into the community where the couple – Mark McCloskey and his wife Patricia McCloskey – lived. They were met by Mark McCloskey holding what looked like an automatic rifle and shouting ‘get out!’ several times at the crowd. I was not overly worried, even when he appeared to cock his weapon.
But then Patricia McCloskey appeared from the front of the house holding a handgun. She had her finger on the trigger and looked nervous and I became a little bit more worried, as there were kids out there and she was sporadically pointing the gun at random people.
I was just trying to make frames, stay safe, dodge the barrel of the gun and stay out of sight and out of line. I'm a big, Black man and I always have to pay attention to that anyway.
I’m pleased with the pictures I took of the scene. I may have liked a longer lens to be able to zoom in on the couple, but the fact that I had only one camera meant I captured not just the McCloskeys, but also the protesters around them.
A lot of the photos out there focus on the couple holding the guns, but to me that's not telling the whole story. I wanted to show there were people protesting peacefully and the couple came to engage them."
17 Jul 2020. Houston, United States. Reuters/Callaghan O'Hare
Dr. Joseph Varon, 58, the chief medical officer at United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC), and a team of healthcare workers perform CPR on a COVID-19 patient in Houston, Texas, U.S,.
Callaghan O'Hare: "Houston’s COVID-19 cases had been rising for weeks and it was my third time photographing patients in the intensive care unit. I was following Doctor Varon and his team as they intubated two patients with worsening conditions. The first intubation went smoothly. We walked into the second patient’s room and almost as soon as they began the procedure, his heart rate dropped.
The air was filled with anxiety. I was in a corner of the room with my camera and it wasn’t until two medical students jumped onto the bed and began administering chest compressions that I realized the patient was dying. The whole scene took place over the course of thirty minutes as we all nervously watched the clock and his heart rate monitor.
Although this patient was surrounded by people while he died, they were faceless doctors in hazmat suits. He wasn’t able to say goodbye to his family, friends, and the people who cared about him. I looked him up later on Facebook, and his profile picture had a filter on it that said, “I’m an essential worker, I can’t stay home.” I often think about him and the likelihood that he contracted the coronavirus at work. I hope his image and his story resonate with people and show why it’s important to wear a mask and stay at home to protect those that can’t."
24 Jul 2020. London, United Kingdom. Reuters/Simon Dawson
A man wearing a surgical mask as a G-string walks past a woman on Oxford Street in London, Britain.
Simon Dawson: "The UK was just starting to open up after the lockdown and most people were still getting used to the idea of wearing a mask. I was on the rooftop of a building on Oxford Street to photograph people returning to the shops when I suddenly noticed a scantily-clad figure walking down the street. At first, I thought he was just in his underwear, but as I looked through the lens, I could see it was a protective face mask being used as a G-string.
My disbelief quickly turned to laughter as I watched the reactions of the people he passed on the street. I followed him through the lens for about 100 metres until he quickly disappeared into the distance.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, this was an unusual light-hearted moment that perhaps put a smile on people's faces. A lot of people commented on social media that they wished they had been there to witness an almost-naked man in very good shape walking down one of London's most famous streets."
27 Aug 2020. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Reuters/Ricardo Moraes
Juliana, who says she is four months pregnant, reacts in front of the body of her husband Davi Barboza, who was shot in Sao Carlos, during a police operation after heavy confrontations between drug gangs, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Ricardo Moraes: "About 10 hours into covering clashes between drug gangs battling to take control of the Sao Carlos slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, and a police operation to quell the violence, I found Juliana sobbing in anguish next to the body of her husband Davi, who was found shot dead after the conflict.
I was struck by the contrasts in the scene – Juliana’s sorrow compared to the stoic faces of the police officers, the military uniforms and weapons surrounding her.
Covering violence in Rio is always a challenge. Dealing with the police, residents or victims is not easy, and the situation can change at any minute. That day, I was witness to a lot of distressing events – people being taken hostage, heavy shootouts, police chasing gang members and Juliana’s despair."
‘My husband, he was what he was. But he was a good man,'Juliana said to me the day after she lost Davi. 'He was my prince.'"
4 Sep 2020. Quezaltepeque, El Salvador. Reuters/Jose Cabezas
Gang members are seen inside a cell at Quezaltepeque jail during a media tour in Quezaltepeque, El Salvador.
Jose Cabezas: "Members of the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs are sworn enemies and historically jails were segregated to prevent violence. However, with an increase in homicides in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic the government changed the policy and stated mixing the prison populations. This cell contains Barro 18 gang members - you can tell the gang allegiances from the tattoos that cover the men’s bodies.
Previous times I've visited the prisoners were roaming about the jail but this time the atmosphere was different - the gang members were unusually quiet and controlled. The air smelt musty and heavy from so many people being crammed in together and tired faces watched our every move.
I’ve been covering the gangs for many years and one of the things that always strikes me is how young the gang members are - an older member of the gang might be in his early-twenties. For some it’s almost a miracle if they make it to their thirties."
9 Sep 2020. Lesbos, Greece. Reuters/Elias Marcou
A migrant carries her belongings following a fire at the Moria camp for refugees and migrants on the island of Lesbos, Greece.
Elias Marcou: “The morning after a fire broke out at Moria refugee camp on Lesbos island in the olive grove next to it, helicopters were dropping water to extinguish scattered fires, while people were returning to assess the extent of the damage and recover what they could.
At the time, approximately 13,000 people were living at the camp, making it the most populated in Europe.
The night before, the police had blocked the road a few hundred metres from the camp to prevent refugees from walking to the nearest city of Mytilene, while the camp was ablaze, and people were desperately trying to get away from the flames, carrying with them any personal belongings they could gather in the darkness. Exploding cooking gas canisters gave an intensity to the night chaos.
In the grey morning, I watched as a woman carrying some blankets turned back for a moment as if to take a last look at the remnants of the life she was once more moving on from. This thought moved me deeply as I captured this image.”
15 Sep 2020. Kyiv, Ukraine. Reuters/Gleb Garanich
A crow attacks a bat in central Kyiv, Ukraine.
Gleb Garanich: "The crow fixed its beady gaze on me as I snapped its picture, the wing of a bat firmly gripped in its beak. Capturing this shot in the beautiful morning light of Kiev confirmed my belief that stories about the animal world need not only be found in the wild.
I was on my way to cover a protest near the Ukrainian parliament and had deliberately left 90 minutes ahead of time as I like to take pictures early in the morning in the centre of Kiev. When I heard a cry and a flapping of wings, I turned in the direction of the noise, raising my telephoto lens, and saw a crow attacking something in the branches of a tree.
In the next instant, a bat flew out of the branches, chased by the crow. The bat fell to the ground, hissing at the crow, which continued to attack it. I drove the crow away, but the bat was lying in the grass and could not fly off. I carefully lifted it and carried it to another tree at the end of the alley, placing it on a branch, and went on with my day.
This shot reminds me that a photographer should always be alert to what is happening around them, ready to take a picture at any moment.”
24 Sep 2020. Jacksonville, United States. Reuters/Tom Brenner
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida, U.S,.
Tom Brenner: "We descended from Air Force One onto the hot, humid tarmac in Jacksonville, Florida. It was already our third campaign stop of the day. Rally attendees, mostly without protective masks, were shouting at anyone holding a camera to ‘treat Trump fairly’ and to ‘stop lying’.
As each Trump rally typically has the same layout of a large audience viewing area encircling an elevated podium, I knew I had to make different images to keep our coverage varied.
I zoomed in with my telephoto lens to compose the giant swaying American flag around the president, then behind his open mouth as he passionately addressed the thousands of supporters listening below. I took several dozen photographs, attempting to frame the president with the flag in order to visualize his strong views on the coronavirus, the economy, and the United States as a whole. It wasn’t until I saw the images on my laptop that I understood that my plan had been successful that day."
16 Oct 2020. Manila, Philippines. Reuters/Eloisa Lopez
Detained Filipino activist Reina Mae Nasino holds a flower during the burial of her three-month-old baby River, who died while she was in jail, in Manila North Cemetery, Manila, Philippines.
Eloisa Lopez: "The moment I saw Filipino activist Reina Mae Nasino step out at the burial site of her three-month-old baby River, my eyes locked onto her hands. She was handcuffed, in a full personal protective suit, and surrounded by armed prison guards. Her relatives and lawyers repeatedly pleaded for her to be uncuffed—even for just a minute—to give her a chance to hold her baby for the last time, but the authorities refused.
It was heartbreaking to witness Nasino sob silently in front of a tiny white coffin, caressing the top of it with her cuffed hands, as her sister played lullabies on a cellphone. This photograph of Nasino holding a white flower was taken during her last moments with her baby, as loved ones threw flowers into the grave before the tomb was covered in cement.
It’s a simple image and doesn’t show any of the chaos I witnessed that day, but I think it demonstrates who Nasino was in that moment. Putting all the politics aside, she was just a mother mourning her child, in a universal feeling that anyone could sympathise with."
For part one of A Picture and its Story 2020 click
PHOTO EDITING GABRIELLE FONSECA JOHNSON; WRITING KARISHMA SINGH; TEXT EDITING JANET LAWRENCE; LAYOUT JULIA DALRYMPLE