TIME’s Best Portraits of 2011

Aung San Suu Kyi
Platon for TIME
Aung San Suu Kyi, the General Secretary of Burma's National League for Democracy. From "The First Lady of Freedom," Jan. 10, 2011, issue (cover story).

“I sometimes think that being photographed by a clicking still camera is infinitely more satisfying to me than shifting about for a whirring moving one,” wrote Tilda Swinton for LightBox in early December. The Academy Award winner was describing her experience being photographed by Peter Hapak in September for TIME, a shoot that yielded images both delicate and intense — not unlike the actor herself.

Finding essence in a single image is a challenge, yet somehow our photographers manage to do it again and again. This year was no exception, as portraits of celebrities, political powerhouses and survivors filled our pages. While each shot displayed the talent of our skilled photographers, TIME’s photo department narrowed the field to select our favorite portraits of the year. From the poised conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi (captured by Platon) to the grief and defiance of Cindy Sheehan, an antiwar activist and the mother of deceased Iraq soldier Casey Sheehan (captured by Marco Grob), to the delighted exuberance of 15-year-old Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld (captured by Hapak), 2011’s best shots spoke volumes about their subjects in the way only portraits can.

After all, as Tilda noted when recounting her luminous shoot, “Still portraits operate their own code.”
—Megan Gibson

Related Topics: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Latest Posts

The collapsed minaret of mosque seen from the destroyed living room of a Palestinian family in a building across the street in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014.

Inside Gaza and Israel: Two Photographers, One War

As the death toll rises in the war between Israel and Hamas, TIME LightBox profiles two photographers who have spent weeks covering the opposing sides: Oliver Weiken of European Pressphoto Agency and Getty Images' Andrew Burton.

Read More
Hidden Islam, Nicolò Degiorgis

Hidden Islam: Nicolo Degiorgis Charts the Challenges of Being Muslim in Italy

The Ebola Crisis, Gulu, Uganda, 2000

Picturing Ebola: Photographers Chase an Invisible Killer