Arts

Our Favorite Arts Photos of 2021

After 15 months of darkness, live music returned. In New York, Foo Fighters reopened Madison Square Garden.Credit…Photograph by Tim Barber for The New York Times

Our Favorite Arts Photos of 2021

These are the pictures that defined an unpredictable year across the worlds of art, music, dance and performance.

By Laura O’Neill, Jolie Ruben and Jessie Wender

A crush of vaccinated fans pumping their wristbanded hands in the air as rock music returned to Madison Square Garden after 460 days. A masked standing ovation as “Hadestown” became one of the first musicals back on Broadway. A sweaty, pulsing Brooklyn party — social, not distanced.

It was a year of reopenings, with an almost palpable darkness-to-light feeling in its giddier moments, many of which were captured by photographers for The New York Times.

There were revelatory portraits: a regal André De Shields taking a break from “King Lear”; the pioneering conceptual artist Lorraine O’Grady getting her first retrospective at age 86; the provocative artist and performer Martine Gutierrez on the streets of New York City; Daniel Craig just as his license to kill was expiring.

There were ambitious statements: Asian and Asian American photographers explored what love looks like in a time of hate. And there were some images that simply mesmerized or delighted: a horseback ride in California, steam clouding Lower Manhattan, a snail named Velveeta surrounded by miniature groceries.

Now — as 2021 ends dimly, with our photographers once more adjusting their apertures to the circumstances — let’s look back at some of the powerful images from a year to remember. MICHAEL COOPER


India Bradley, a New York City Ballet dancer, not only had to grapple with the shutdown of her dance company but also the Black Lives Matter protests.Credit…Sabrina Santiago for The New York Times

I was looking for moments that showed the everyday dance of life, in and out of the theater.

— Sabrina Santiago on photographing New York City Ballet dancers’ preparations for returning to the stage

Léa Seydoux starred in “No Time to Die,” “The French Dispatch” and “France.”Credit…Jingyu Lin for The New York Times
Andy Richter, who worked alongside Conan O’Brien for years, looked back on his career as late-night’s No. 1 second banana.Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times
Twenty years after Sept. 11, The Times’s architecture critic Michael Kimmelman reflected on how Lower Manhattan bloomed despite the odds.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times

I wanted to illustrate the ways in which life, though often obscured by the manufactured landscape, always surfaces, adapting and moving forward.

— George Etheredge on photographing Lower Manhattan

“It seems to me that being a pop star is almost like being in a type of prison,” Sinead O’Connor said in a rare interview.Credit…Ellius Grace for The New York Times
“It’s so lovely to see Black women representing these different archetypes: a wife, a mother, a career woman,” said Naomi Ackie, who anchored Season 3 of “Master of None.”Credit…Adama Jalloh for The New York Times
Yuh-Jung Youn, who never dreamed of acting, made Oscar history when she won for “Minari.”Credit…Peter Ash Lee for The New York Times
A shadowy figure in Chinatown, Los Angeles. For the photographer, a backdrop and spontaneous action within the frame combine to tell a story.Credit…Jake Michaels for The New York Times
Stephen King talked about why “Lisey’s Story” was one he had to adapt for the screen himself.Credit…Philip Montgomery for The New York Times

A red sports car with the vanity plate “FASTER” roared up. My assistant and I exchanged a look and laughed. It couldn’t possibly be the subject of our shoot. A lanky man in a T-shirt and jeans with two pens in the pocket exited the car. “You’re the photographer,” he said. “You’re Stephen King,” I replied.

— Philip Montgomery on meeting Stephen King

Photographers captured New York City awash in noise yet again. Here, at a party in Brooklyn.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times
Performers at two of New York’s hallowed haunted attractions, like Shamia Diaz at Blood Manor, explained the secrets behind the shocks.Credit…Erik Tanner for The New York Times

Her physiology began a metamorphosis; her body began to elongate and stretch; bones seemed to bend as her eyes went wide. Her posture lurched forward as she conjured a series of screams and howls. It was both fantastic and confounding that the vessel that I met with only minutes before could be the home for such dread.

— Erik Tanner on witnessing Shamia Diaz’s transformation into character

Arlo Parks’s music captures modern-day misery in a way that feels improbably heartening.Credit…Kalpesh Lathigra for The New York Times
The end of Britney Spears’s conservatorship was among the biggest cultural stories of the year.Credit…Chloe Pang for The New York Times

What is freedom? Will we continue to prioritize celebrity over neighbor or are we capable of bridging this gap?

— Chloe Pang on photographing supporters of Britney Spears outside a courthouse in Los Angeles

Lorde’s third album, “Solar Power,” was made after a break during which the singer and songwriter simply lived.Credit…Justin J Wee for The New York Times
The comic, all-male company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo came to the Joyce Theater in December.Credit…Yael Malka for The New York Times
Camilo Fuentealba staked out local New York businesses to explore the dancerly movements of everyday life during a pandemic.Credit…Camilo Fuentealba for The New York Times
Amanda Hess, a Times critic at large, looked at how miniatures of all kinds experienced a pandemic bump.Credit…Photo illustration by Aleia Murawski and Sam Copeland for The New York Times

Since there is no way to train a snail, at least that we know of, we have to be willing to let them move at their own speed. We sometimes try to entice a snail with cucumber juice or sweet potato, but so often it comes down to a snail’s own curiosity and what they naturally gravitate toward.

— Aleia Murawski on working with gastropods

Lee Isaac Chung, whose film “Minari” was an awards show favorite.Credit…Justin J Wee for The New York Times
An afternoon ride in Montebello, Calif. looks like a frame from a Western.Credit…Jake Michaels for The New York Times
Annie Leibovitz, one of the world’s most celebrated photographers, at her home in Rhinebeck, N.Y.Credit…Gillian Laub for The New York Times

I loved talking to Annie about photography, motherhood and the creative process. I almost forgot I was there to make a photograph.

— Gillian Laub on photographing Annie Leibovitz

Marc Crousillat performing in “Repose,” a meditative, durational work by Moriah Evans, at Rockaway Beach.Credit…Angelo Silvio Vasta for The New York Times
At age 86, the pioneering conceptual artist Lorraine O’Grady got her first retrospective, in March at the Brooklyn Museum.Credit…Lelanie Foster for The New York Times

She was fine art on a gallery wall. I remember taking a few test shots then showing her before photographing on film — her response: “Ohhhh, I look GOOOOD!”

— Lelanie Foster on photographing Lorraine O’Grady

At “SOCIAL! the social distance dance club,” at the Armory, our critic Siobhan Burke experienced “bursts of inspiration swallowed by spells of disappointment, even sadness.”Credit…Mohamed Sadek for The New York Times
The artist, performer and provocateur Martine Gutierrez in New York City. “What does being a woman mean?” she asked.Credit…Camila Falquez for The New York Times
These days, Monica Lewinsky uses her name in public, is financially independent and can laugh about things she couldn’t always.Credit…Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times
Read our conversation with Daniel Craig, who bid farewell to the James Bond franchise in 2021.Credit…Devin Oktar Yalkin for The New York Times

I had shot this portrait of Daniel Craig in February of 2020, right before the pandemic started. He was a dream, incredibly present and charming, and became even more endearing when we got to talking about our kids, who are the same age. The article finally came out this past September, and it was only then did I really register that I had photographed JamesBond.

— Devin Oktar Yalkin on photographing Daniel Craig

In 2005, The Times’s film critic A.O. Scott critiqued Sarah Silverman’s approach to comedy. This year, they sat down to talk about what he got right and wrong.Credit…Photo Illustration by Chase Middleton for The New York Times
Read our conversation with Amanda Peet, left, and Sandra Oh, on bringing the Netflix satire “The Chair” to life.Credit…Charlie Gates for The New York Times

Sandra set the music to “rap” and then they both jumped around the studio laughing and giggling. I said, “Close your eyes, don’t move, put your heads together — don’t laugh,” and this was the outcome.

— Charlie Gates on photographing Amanda Peet and Sandra Oh

Benedict Cumberbatch earned some of the best reviews of his career for “The Power of the Dog.” Here’s what it took for him to become that seething cowboy.Credit…Robbie Lawrence for The New York Times

He was generous with his time so we spent a couple of hours wandering along a cliff edge, occasionally stopping to take photos. I liked the idea of creating something dynamic in the pictures so asked him, fairly simply, if he would fall over.

— Robbie Lawrence on photographing Benedict Cumberbatch on a blustery day along the English coast

Selma Blair put herself out there in an unflinching documentary about living with multiple sclerosis.Credit…Magdalena Wosinska for The New York Times
What does love look like in a time of hate? Asian and Asian-American photographers responded to this question, including Sandy Kim, here with her parents in Koreatown, Los Angeles.Credit…Sandy Kim for The New York Times
Heather Sten holding a mirror for Justin J Wee at Wee’s home in Brooklyn.Credit…Justin J Wee for The New York Times
Denzel Mendoza and his wife, Aurora, friends of the photographer, in Portland, Ore.Credit…Ricardo Nagaoka for The New York Times
Days before dying at age 91, Stephen Sondheim reflected. “I’ve been lucky,” he said.Credit…Daniel Dorsa for The New York Times
André De Shields talked about the importance of believability in storytelling and playing King Lear for a second time.Credit…Whitney Curtis for The New York Times
Kenneth Shirley of the dance troupe Indigenous Enterprise, in downtown Phoenix. He described the group’s style as “Native American with a little bit of hip-hop.”Credit…Tomás Karmelo Amaya for The New York Times

The dancers and I co-created these images to bring visual medicine and spaces of healing to areas named after presidents who counted on our extermination.

— Tomás Karmelo Amaya on photographing Indigenous Enterprise

Jillian Freyer captured her sister and mother’s quarantine pas de deux in the backyard of her mother’s home in Connecticut.Credit…Jillian Freyer for The New York Times
The members of the Japanese quartet Chai, from left: Yuna, Yuuki, Kana and Mana.Credit…Shina Peng for The New York Times
A vaccinated, masked audience celebrated the return of “Hadestown” on Broadway in September.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times
Despite the pandemic, the Met Opera staged a six-hour opera: “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” Raza Ram, an usher, read during the second act.Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times
In May, Broadway sputtered back to life, when more than three dozen shows announced plans.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet

Six hours of Wagner? I was intrigued. As a photographer, it afforded me the breathing room to slow down and explore how such a long production affected many facets behind the scenes.

— Todd Heisler on documenting the Met Opera’s staging of “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg”

We went inside the world of Dominican car culture, where customized sound systems are an art of their own.Credit…Josefina Santos for The New York Times

You haven’t experienced real sound if you don’t feel like your eyes are going to pop out of your sockets.

— Josefina Santos on capturing New York City’s notorious music machines

Under the title Theater in Quarantine, Joshua William Gelb created dozens of shows, most of them livestreamed from his East Village apartment.Credit…Mark Sommerfeld for The New York Times
Chakaia Booker outside her studio in Allentown, Pa. “I sculpt myself every day,” she said.Credit…Hannah Price for The New York Times
The photographer and a Times reporter cruised through Queens, N.Y., with David Byrne, left, and some of his castmates ahead of the return of “American Utopia” to Broadway.Credit…Cole Wilson for The New York Times

He led the group as he would a band, giving gentle direction from the front, trusting others would follow suit in their own time.

— Cole Wilson on photographing David Byrne

Nicholas Braun’s character, Cousin Greg, on “Succession” is a fan favorite. “There’s a trying to Greg that’s really endearing and fun for me to play,” Braun said.Credit…Clement Pascal for The New York Times
Campers at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Northern Michigan this summer.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times
Two Juliets: Cortney Taylor Key, left, and Audrey Malek. Lesbians are beginning to challenge ballet’s gender norms.Credit…Yael Malka for The New York Times
With “Swan Song,” the veteran actor Udo Kier had his first leading role in some time.Credit…Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times
Creede Repertory Theater, perched at 8,900 feet in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, has been a boon to its community for 50 years.Credit…Ramsay de Give for The New York Times
Tomashi Jackson at the Watermill Center on Long Island, N.Y., where she created paintings for “The Land Claim.”Credit…Clifford Prince King for The New York Times
Jillian Mercado’s role on Showtime’s “L Word” reboot offered a rare depiction of intimacy among disabled people.
Credit…Bethany Mollenkof for The New York Times
Lauren Lovette, a New York City Ballet principal, opened up about retiring from the company — but not from dance.Credit…Jingyu Lin for The New York Times
The director Zack Snyder dug into his exit from the original “Justice League” and what led to his edit, the Snyder Cut.Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times

I was preparing our next setup when all of a sudden he grinned and asked if I’d like to photograph him jumping on his trampoline. He immediately ran to it, and my assistant and I had to grab our gear and rush over. There was so much joy and freedom in his movements; he was flying.

— Maggie Shannon on photographing Zack Snyder

Planned by the conceptual artist Christo 60 years ago, this posthumous work, “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped,” transformed the Paris monument.Credit…Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris; Elliott Verdier for The New York Times
Here’s how Ron Norsworthy, a visual artist and designer, finally found his core self as an artist.Credit…Kendall Bessent for The New York Times
Lloyd Knight dancing Robert Cohan’s solo “Lloyd.”Credit…Justin J Wee for The New York Times
Ilana Glazer starred in and co-wrote “False Positive,” a horror film about pregnancy.Credit…Justin J Wee for The New York Times

Ilana was on the precipice of several big things in her life, and I wanted to visualize that transformation.

— Justin J Wee on photographing Ilana Glazer

Before the Broadway reopenings, there were the in-person reunions. And hugs. So many hugs.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times
Kathryn Hahn wasn’t looking to star in a Marvel show, but “I was so turned on by the ambition” of “WandaVision,” she said.Credit…Daniel Dorsa for The New York Times
September Dawn Bottoms looked for cinematic moments in and around Tulsa, Okla.Credit…September Dawn Bottoms for The New York Times

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