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The photos that mattered to us most in 2015 by Caitlin Hu

To mark the end of the year, photo agency AP has rounded up its “most popular, highest-trending, most liked and shared photos posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.” In other words, the images that resonated most across social media in 2015 .

The 146-photo collection reveals a predictable range of events from sports to global crises. But once shuffled into the right order, what’s remarkable about this collection is how often the trending photos overlapped on the same topics, offering multiple perspectives on the year’s most important issues, events, and places.

Now that the year is over, here’s a chance to look at the images that mattered to us most with fresh eyes.

The year began and ended with Paris.

The year began with catastrophe—on Jan. 7, masked gunmen attacked journalists in the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, and then took hostages in a kosher grocery store. In response, Parisians took to the streets with the slogan “Not Afraid,” wielding pens as symbols of freedom. Months later, on Nov. 13, terrorists attacked again, taking the lives of 130 civilians. Though the Eiffel Tower closed for three days of national mourning, unprecedented demonstrations of solidarity spread across the world.

People gather to pay respect for the victims of a terror attack against a satirical newspaper, in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. Masked gunmen shouting "Allahu akbar!" stormed the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper Wednesday, killing 12 people, including the paper's editor, before escaping in a getaway car. It was France's deadliest terror attack in living memory.

People gather to pay respect for the victims of a terror attack against a satirical newspaper, in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015.

A bird flies in front of the Eiffel Tower, which remained closed on the first of three days of national mourning.

A bird flies in front of the Eiffel Tower, which remained closed on the first of three days of national mourning DATES?.

 

The global refugee crisis became visible…

Civilians displaced by violence, hardship and natural disaster became impossible to overlook this year, as scenes of desperation—particularly at Europe’s closed borders—proliferated, and receiving nations lamented the burden of hospitality.

In this Sept. 13, 2015 photo taken with slow shutter speed migrants walk towards a checkpoint along the railway tracks connecting Horgos and Szeged near Roszke, in the vicinity of the border between Hungary and Serbia.

Sept. 13, 2015: Migrants walk towards a checkpoint along the railway tracks near the border between Hungary and Serbia.

A Syrian refugee child looks out of a bus that will take him and his family to the center for asylum seekers near Roszke, southern Hungary, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. EU officials and human rights groups say they've been disappointed by the animosity toward asylum-seekers in countries from which hundreds of thousands of people fled communist dictatorships just decades ago.

A Syrian refugee child looks out of a bus that will take him and his family to the center for asylum seekers near Roszke, southern Hungary, Sept. 11, 2015.

In this Tuesday, April 15, 2015 photo, a Yazidi woman whispers into the ear of her friend as both hold small fires to make a wish for the Yazidi new year, at the holy shrine of Lalish, 57 kilometers (35 miles) north of the militant-held Mosul, Iraq. With thousands of loved ones gone _ kidnapped or killed by militants with the Islamic State group _ and thousands more displaced from their homes, it was a solemn occasion commemorated with religious chants and a wish for the new year.

April 15, 2015: A Yazidi woman whispers into the ear of her friend at the Yazidi New Year, at a shrine just 35 miles north of Mosul, Iraq. Thousands of Yazidi have been kidnapped or killed by militants with the Islamic State, and thousands more displaced from their homes.

 

…catalyzing fierce discussion of cultural values and integration.

This Thursday, April 9, 2015 photo shows a man leading tourists riding horses at the historical site of the Giza Pyramids near Cairo. This photo was shot through the lowered veil of a niqab, which is worn by some conservative Muslim women. The cloth allows women to follow a strict interpretation of their religious beliefs by preventing others from seeing their faces.

This photo was shot through the lowered veil of a niqab, worn by some conservative Muslim women, and shows the Giza Pyramids near Cairo.

A penitent casts his shadow as he takes part in "Nuestro Senor Atado a la Columna, Maria Santisima de la Paz y San Juan Evangelista" Holy Week procession in Arcos de la Frontera, Spain, Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Hundreds of processions take place throughout Spain during the Easter Holy Week.

A Catholic penitent casts his shadow as he takes part in a Holy Week procession in Arcos de la Frontera, Spain.

 

The power of rainbows was finally revealed.

A man walks past a large rainbow flag hanging at City Hall in San Francisco, Friday, June 26, 2015, following a ruling by the US Supreme Court that struck down bans on same sex marriage nation wide.

A large rainbow flag hangs down City Hall in San Francisco, June 26, 2015, following a US Supreme Court ruling that struck down bans on same sex marriage nationwide.

In this Thursday, July 30, 2015 photo, hundreds of houses painted in bright colors in what organizers claim is Mexico's largest mural, is part of a government-sponsored project is called Pachuca Paints Itself, in the Palmitas neighborhood, in Pachuca, Mexico. German Crew is the artist collective responsible for painting the mural project. Director Enrique Gomez, who goes by MYBE, said the crew has painted 1,500 square meters with 20,000 liters of paint. The project aims to bring the community together and rehabilitate the area.

July 30, 2015: Hundreds of houses painted in bright colors in what organizers claim is Mexico’s largest mural, is part of a government-sponsored project is called Pachuca Paints Itself, in Pachuca, Mexico.

Anti-government protests around the world continued…

An Egyptian youth carries a lit flare as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood gather in the El-Mataria neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, to protest the 20-year sentence for ousted president Mohammed Morsi and verdicts against other prominent figures of the Brotherhood Friday, April 24, 2015. Morsi was convicted of using force against protesters and sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday, the first verdict against him since he was removed by the military nearly two years ago.

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood gather in Cairo, Egypt, to protest the 20-year sentence for ousted president Mohammed Morsi on April 24, 2015. Morsi was convicted of using force against protesters during the Arab Spring in 2011.

A Demonstrator blows his whistle in the Kanyosha district of Bujumbura, Burundi, Wednesday May 6, 2015. Anti-government demonstrations continue Wednesday and protesters regularly set road blocks in Burundi's capital after the constitutional court validated President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term in office.

A demonstrator blows his whistle in Bujumbura, Burundi, on May 6, 2015, during anti-government demonstrations sparked by the constitutional court’s validation of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term.

…and in Ukraine fueled civil war. 

A Russia-backed separatist fighter sits in a self propelled 152 mm artillery piece, part of a unit moved away from the front lines, in Yelenovka, near Donetsk, Ukraine,Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. Russia's foreign minister is sharply criticizing Ukraine's insistence that it won't begin pulling back heavy weapons in its fight against separatists in the east until the rebels fully observe a cease-fire.

A Russia-backed separatist fighter sits in a self propelled 152 mm artillery piece, near Donetsk, Ukraine, Feb. 26, 2015.

Ukrainian servicemen put their dogs under the jackets to keep them warm in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. The military conflict between Russia-backed separatists and the government forces in eastern Ukraine has been raging since April, claiming more than 5,100 lives, according to the United Nations.

Ukrainian servicemen put their dogs under the jackets to keep them warm in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Jan. 28, 2015.

Animals continued to capture hearts and minds.

FILE - A Sunday, May 3, 2015 photo from files showing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry taking a selfie with a baby elephant while touring the Sheldrick Center Elephant Orphanage at the Nairobi National Park, in Nairobi, Kenya.

A May 3, 2015 photo shows US Secretary of State John Kerry taking a selfie with a baby elephant in Nairobi, Kenya.

In this July 13, 2015 file photo, an Asian elephant swims a 65-meters long pool at Fuji Safari Park in Susono, at the foot of Mt. Fuji, southwest of Tokyo. The park was inspired by the images of elephants swimming in the ocean and wanted to build a facility exactly demonstrating what was little known in Japan that elephants can actually swim. The attraction opened on July 11.

July 13, 2015: An Asian elephant swims a 65-meters long pool at Fuji Safari Park in Susono, at the foot of Mt. Fuji, southwest of Tokyo.

 

 

Sports pictures, less so.

Filipino boys play basketball in floodwaters from a swollen creek at a coastal village in Malabon, north of Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. Typhoon Chan-Hom passing over the northeastern waters of the Philippines heading to northern Taiwan has enhanced the seasonal monsoon, dumping heavy rains over the capital, Manila, and the northern provinces.

Filipinos play basketball in floodwaters from a swollen creek at a coastal village in Malabon, north of Manila, Philippines, on July 8, 2015. Typhoon Chan-Hom has enhanced the seasonal monsoon.

Rafael Nadal, of Spain, eyes a ball at the quarter-finals match of the Rio Open tennis tournament against Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, early Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015.

Rafael Nadal of Spain eyes a ball at the quarter-finals match of the Rio Open tennis tournament against Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb. 21, 2015.

We shared images from the ends of the Earth…

A full moon silhouettes television and radio antennas on Boutilier Mountain, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, early Sunday Sept. 27, 2015. The full moon was seen prior to a phenomenon called a "Super Moon" eclipse that will occur Sunday night.

Sept. 27, 2015 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The full moon was seen prior to a phenomenon called a “Super Moon” eclipse.

Rime ice extends several feet horizontally from a sign marking the summit of 5,774-foot Mount Adams, the second highest mountain in New England, on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, in northern New Hampshire. Monday's freezing fog and strong winds formed the rime ice, creating a winter wonderland above treeline in New Hampshire's aptly named White Mountains.

Ice extends several feet horizontally from a sign marking the summit of 5,774-foot Mount Adams on Nov. 17, 2015, in New Hampshire, USA.

…but kept a soft spot for neighbors.

It was the 70th anniversary of the war that split North and South Korea, a bitter reminder for the families who can now only reunite during special diplomatic field trips.

Veterans turn toward their North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he delivers a speech during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared Saturday that his country was ready to stand up to any threat posed by the United States as he spoke at a lavish military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the North's ruling party and trumpet his third-generation leadership.

Veterans turn toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he delivers a speech during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, Oct. 10, 2015.

In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo, members of the South Korean honor guard throw their guns in the air during the honor guard ceremony for the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition 2015, ADEX 2015, at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea. The event is held from Oct. 20 to Oct. 25 with many other affiliated events.

In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo, members of the South Korean honor guard throw their guns in the air.

Faith and community remained central to the human experience…

The Vatican’s Pope Francis built his brand this year, with a fiery encyclical letter calling for action on climate change, a new book, a rock album, and several historic international visits. During the Muslim hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in September, a crush of believers caused a deadly stampede that left hundreds dead, and many nations pointing their fingers at one another.

Pope Francis Pope presides over Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican Thursday, April 2, 2015.

Pope Francis Pope presides over mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican on April 2, 2015.

In this Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015 photo, Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Thousands of Muslims from all over the world have arrived in Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca. Every Muslim is required to perform the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime if able to do so.

In this Sept. 9, 2015 photo, Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

…as did the power of nature.

A farmer tends to his field as Mount Sinabung releases pyroclastic flows in Tiga Pancur, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Saturday, June 13, 2015. The volcano, which was put on it highest alert level last week, has sporadically erupted since 2010 after being dormant for 400 years.

A farmer tends to his field as Mount Sinabung releases pyroclastic flows in Tiga Pancur, North Sumatra, Indonesia on June 13, 2015.

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 file photo, an elderly man tosses fallen gingko leaves into the air in a park in Beijing. China's capital has been hit with unusually cool and wet weather in recent weeks.

In this Nov. 20, 2015 photo, an elderly man tosses fallen gingko leaves into the air in a park in Beijing.

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