The Most Surprising Photos of 2013

APTOPIX Australia Wildfires
Tim Holmes—AP
Jan. 4, 2013. Tammy Holmes, second from left, and her grandchildren, two-year-old Charlotte Walker, left, four-year-old Esther Walker, third from left, nine-year-old Liam Walker, eleven-year-old Matilda, second from right, and six-year-old Caleb Walker, right, photographed by their grandfather as they take refuge under a jetty as a wildfire rages nearby in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, Australia.

While the culture of social media did its best to ensure that 2013 had its fair share of entertaining, surprising and, above all, shareable photo moments, ultimately the past twelve months included as many genuinely shocking as surprising pictures. The year left us in varying states of outrage, bewilderment, bemusement and astonishment.

But there were some wonderfully unexpected and unusual images—a shark inside a shark and selfies with the Pope to a bear on a tightrope and a bundle of baby pandas—that delighted, enthralled and distracted us. Here, LightBox looks back over the past twelve months and presents a selection of underreported, improbable and astounding images that caught the attention of TIME’s photo editors—and which, we trust, maintain their ability to utterly, thoroughly surprise.


Phil Bicker is a senior photo editor at TIME.


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