January: Tim Peake’s spacewalk
In the 1960s, writes Catherine Ingram, space travel had a different colour. As the US artist Andy Warhol described it, back then “silver was the future, it was spacey – the astronauts wore silver suits”. This photo of British astronaut Tim Peake’s spacewalk reminds Ingram of Warhol’s 1966 work Silver Clouds, with “a sense of the infinite – that there are no walls or ceiling or floor; that where you are goes on forever”.
February: A soldier in the Free Syrian Army stands guard
Taken as a major ceasefire in the war in Syria came into effect, this photo shows a soldier who “seems forever poised on a threshold”, according to Kelly Grovier. Arguing that the perspective of this photo works in the same way as a 19th-Century trompe l’oeil, he looks at how news photos help break down “the barrier between the stresses of a conflict raging in an inconceivable elsewhere and the retinas of distant readers”.
March: The father who saved his son
Snapped at the instant when a bat slipped from the hands of a baseball player and a fan instinctively stretched out his arm to save his son, this heart-stopping photo went viral in March. Kelly Grovier looked at a 16th-Century painting, the viral image reinvesting it with a horror that time has blunted.
April: Ruins at Palmyra
After Palmyra was retaken by Syrian forces, a photographer captured the extent of the damage wrought by militants. Joseph Eid held up a picture he’d taken of the Arch of Triumph at the ancient city in 2014 – against the backdrop of the arch in ruins, after it was destroyed by the so-called Islamic State. Kelly Grovier looked at Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), by the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, a work that Grovier believes is “cruel to be kind by forcing observers to confront an isolated, if vivid, instance of the destruction of heritage he believes is raging all around us in a world obsessed with the superficial rewards of the fast-and-easy here and now”.