When photographers show their work to us WIRED photo editors, common responses as to why they’re reluctant to show off some of their most interesting projects include “I wasn’t sure if this is WIRED’s style,” or “I didn’t think you cover this.”

Year in Review: What WIRED learned from tech, science, culture, and more in 2019

Sure, we feature some obvious technological subjects, like the optical fibers bringing 5G online. And it’s no secret we rely on certain techniques (hint: hard light and bold shadows). But, as our editor in chief Nicholas Thompson likes to say, WIRED isn’t simply a publication about technology; it’s a magazine about change. That change manifests in myriad forms and is documented by a diverse spectrum of photography, sometimes over the span of years. Here, writers Laura Mallonee and Michael Hardy highlight some of their favorite projects and image-makers from 2019.

An anatomical model stands in a lecture hall at the Free University of Berlin. For Nikita Teryoshin, the model is a symbol of human control over cows—as he puts it, “how we can look into the cow and see everything.”Photograph: Nikita Teryoshin

It’s easy to find shocking photos of slaughterhouses online. Nikita Teryoshin’s Hornless Heritage has a similar effect, minus the gore. His bright flash illuminates the utilitarian calculation of an industry where cows are commodities, and treated as such. At least, it made me lose my appetite. —Laura Mallonee

This sculpture, by 19th-century German glassworkers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, depicts the Chrysaora hyoscella, or compass jellyfish.Photograph: Guido Mocafico

If you taught marine biology in the 19th century and needed teaching aids, you wrote to father-and-son glassworkers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, who created thousands of dazzlingly lifelike models of jellyfish and other invertebrates in their Dresden studio. Shipped all over the world, hundreds of the glass models still survive in university museums. Guido Mocafico recently spent several years traveling around Europe to photograph the models, lighting them so they looked as realistic as possible. It worked—some viewers believe they’re looking at actual sea creatures. —Michael Hardy

‘Hair Dye’, 2016, is a self-portrait in Elinor Carucci’s new book Midlife. It’s a poignant exploration of middle age and the loss of youth.Photograph: Elinor Carucci 

Few women see their own uteruses post-hysterectomy, much less photograph them. Elinor Carucci nearly passed out while doing so. That bravery (obstinance?) reverberates through Midlife, an unprecedented look at aging and corporeal loss that resonates for women, of course, and with anyone else alike. —Laura Mallonee

Kiki Roust appears suited up to play with Vermont’s NAHA White, part of the Junior Women’s Hockey League.Photograph: Alana Paterson

Women make up 40 percent of all athletes but receive just 4 percent of all sports-related coverage. It’s backward and dumb, and Alana Paterson is doing her part to change it. I was inspired by her high-contrast photos of young hockey players whizzing across the ice, part of a larger body of work spotlighting underrepresented—and often underpaid—female athletes. —Laura Mallonee

This image was captured near Interstate 79 in Elkview, West Virginia, after a series of floods had passed through the area.

Photograph: Joshua Dudley Greer

The highway is an iconic symbol of American freedom. But it’s also a drab backdrop for countless soul-wearying commutes and thousands of traffic deaths. Joshua Dudley Greer captures this friction in Somewhere Across This Line, a 100,000-mile odyssey through the interstate system. —Laura Mallonee

Buzkashi is a centuries-old Central Asian sport in which men on horses fight over a decapitated, disemboweled goat or calf carcass.Photograph: Anna Huix

In the centuries-old Central Asian sport of buzkashi, several dozen horseback riders fight to throw a disemboweled goat or calf carcass into a ring or other designated area. With no teams, no clock, and no clearly defined playing field, it’s one of the world’s wildest sports. Anna Huix traveled to Tajikistan specifically to photograph a buzkashi match, and masterfully captured the tradition’s pageantry and mayhem. —Laura Mallonee

Photographer Amir Zaki grew up skating, but when he turned his camera on the skate parks of Southern California his interest was more in the parks than the skating.Photograph: Amir Zaki

Skate parks have become a defining feature of Southern California’s built environment. Although sometimes dismissed as eyesores, Los Angeles photographer Amir Zaki finds the beauty in the parks’ sculpted concrete bowls and plateaus, which for him evoke the work of Land Art pioneer Michael Heizer. Zaki photographed the parks early in the morning, before any skaters had arrived, to better capture their austere grandeur. —Michael Hardy

When photographer Neil Burnell visited Wistman’s Wood on a family holiday as a child, he was reminded of Dagobah, the swamp planet where Yoda lives in Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back.Photograph: Neil Burnell

Wistman’s Wood in southwestern England has long inspired stories of the supernatural, serving as a setting for Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and an inspiration for Fangorn Forest in The Lord of the Rings. Photographer Neil Burnell visited the woods as a child, and over the past few years has made some 20 trips there in an attempt to capture its otherworldly beauty. These images were mostly taken during the “blue hour” just before sunrise, and although they may look computer-generated, they’re very real. —Michael Hardy

The nuclear icebreaker 50 Years of Victory arrives to tow a cargo ship carrying supplies for the Yamal LNG factory in Sabetta through the Kara Sea.Photograph: Charles Xelot

Melting sea ice may be bad for polar bears, but it’s good for Russian oil and gas tycoons eager to tap the Arctic’s resources. Charles Xelot’s epic photographs take you to the frontier where they’re drilling for fossil fuels, and shipping it via the Northeast Passage—occasionally getting stuck. —Laura Mallonee

For Jonk, a longtime aficionado of Soviet relics, the trip was a career highlight. He hopes the surviving Burans will eventually be rescued from their current neglect and accorded the proper respect.Photograph: Jonk

The photographer and urban explorer known as Jonk has managed to sneak into some 1,500 abandoned buildings around the world, but none was as difficult to access—or as worthwhile—as the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Jonk and three friends had to hike all night through the desert to access the active spaceport, but they were rewarded with the opportunity to photograph two abandoned Soviet space shuttles currently rusting away in a hangar. Jonk and his buddies spent two full days exploring the site before reluctantly heading back to the real world. —Michael Hardy

Go here to check out what else caught our collective eyes this year.

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