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2023 through the lens of Reuters photographers


This year is one that will go down in history as being marked by two big wars – an ongoing conflict in Ukraine as it fights off a Russian invasion and a fresh outbreak of violence in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas militants.

Reuters photographers were on the ground to capture it all as it unfolded – and much more.

In February, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey and Syria brought buildings down on their residents – including Abdulalim Muaini, who was eventually rescued, and his family, who were among the more than 54,000 people who lost their lives in the disaster. Another quake in September killed more than 2,900 people in Morocco.

It was a year when evidence that the Earth’s climate was changing seemed starker than ever. Wildfires in southern Europe and Canada in July destroyed homes and blanketed cities in a thick haze, while in Latin America water levels dropped, threatening livelihoods and leaving Amazon River dolphins high and dry. Storms brought heavy rains to California in March, almost completely swallowing one road – a sight best illustrated from the sky.

Fighting between armed groups and attacks on civilians intensified in eastern Congo, there was a new spate of ethnically driven killings in Darfur, Sudan, and gangs took over much of Haiti.

Such desperate situations led many to embark on risky migration journeys in hopes of a better life. Venezuelans balanced on top of freight trains to get to the U.S.-Mexican border while Africans set out for Europe in rickety boats. Not all of them made it.

Trials occupied the U.S. headlines – Donald Trump, the former president, became embroiled in a series of legal troubles, while cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted of fraud.

The big story of late 2023 was the Israel-Hamas war. On Oct. 7, Hamas rampaged through southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. In retaliation, Israel bombarded Gaza and mounted a ground offensive, which by late November had killed over 15,000 people, according to Gaza authorities. Many of those caught up in the violence were children and youngsters.

While this war and other stories took the spotlight off Ukraine, the conflict raged on in the country’s east. Death became an everyday occurrence – one Reuters photographer captured a woman in October looking at bodies laid out on the ground in a way that suggests it was sad but no longer shocking to her.

Amid the death and despair that marked 2023, humans still found ways to remember and to celebrate – and Reuters photographers looked for those stories, too. Children took part in traditions passed down from their elders – learning ancient crafts, dressing up for religious occasions, or waving flags at the May coronation of King Charles III.

People played sports, they went out to party and to see art exhibitions, they swam and they surfed, they strutted catwalks and they gave out Oscars.

UFOs became an unexpectedly hot news topic, as hearings took place in the United States and Mexico – and something appeared in the skies over the U.S. in February. Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Was it ET? Or was it a spy balloon?

A Reuters photographer took a picture of an object drifting down to the coast in South Carolina after it was shot down, just one moment among many that made up the world in 2023.

Related Galleries:

A tree burns during a wildfire in Mandra, Greece, July 18, 2023. REUTERS/Louiza Vradi

A Sudanese family who fled the conflict in Murnei in Sudan’s Darfur region, sit beside their belongings while waiting to be registered by UNHCR upon crossing the border between Sudan and Chad in Adre, Chad, July 26, 2023. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Decaying fishing trawlers known collectively as The Fleetwood Wrecks are seen at low tide on the banks of the River Wyre in Fleetwood, Britain, September 26, 2023. REUTERS/Lee Smith

Hindu devotees daubed in colour throw a fellow devotee in the air as they celebrate Holi, the festival of colours, at a temple premises in Salangpur in the western state of Gujarat, India, March 7, 2023. REUTERS/Amit Dave

A piece of the boat and a piece of clothing from the deadly migrant shipwreck are seen in Steccato di Cutro near Crotone, Italy, February 28, 2023. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from the city of Ashkelon, Israel, October 9, 2023. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

A man walks on the cracked ground of the Baells reservoir as drinking water supplies have plunged to their lowest level since 1990 due to extreme drought in Catalonia, in the village of Cersc, in the region Bergueda, Spain, March 14, 2023. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

A worker sits as illegally harvested sandalwood confiscated by Kenya’s multiagency security teams is set ablaze to curb the trade in their essential oil, which is extracted to manufacture medicines and cosmetics at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) offices along Kiambu road in Nairobi, Kenya, February 28, 2023. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

Riot police officers lob tear gas canisters to disperse supporters of Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga of the Azimio La Umoja (Declaration of Unity) One Kenya Alliance, during an anti-government protest against the imposition of tax hikes by the government, in Mathare settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, July 12, 2023. REUTERS/John Muchucha

A person takes a photo as a full moon known as the “Buck Moon” rises behind the Temple of Poseidon, in Cape Sounion, near Athens, Greece, July 3, 2023. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
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