The Best Pictures of 2012, With a Twist: Young Photographers Who Are Revolutionizing the Industry


Each December marks the annual kickoff of “the best of” lists. With 2012 coming to a close, most publications will soon be rolling out their editorial features, which highlight the winners of almost any category. It’s only appropriate, then, that PolicyMic follow suit — with a best in photojournalism.

However, due to a recent, revolutionary trend within the industry, this list, instead of focusing on individual photographs, will look at how millennial photographers are paving a path towards a new way of working — collaboratively.

Long a profession marked by intense competition and solo assignments, dwindling newspaper and magazine staffs, as well as a decline in agencies, have dramatically limited opportunities for aspiring photojournalists. Typically small groups of 5-10 photographers, collectives are cooperatives that provide support in the idea that there is strength in numbers. These cooperatives band together to offer editing, business, and career advice from those they would otherwise consider competitors.   

Today, these millennials are dropping the historical lone wolf mentality of the industry in exchange for companionship and cooperation. Collectives are not only in vogue, but proving to be one of the best ways to maintain a sustainable career — artistically and financially.

This version of a “best of” takes a look at three of these collectives giving new meaning to the field Henri Cartier-Bresson inaugurated.


1. Prime Photographers

Though the collective was established only a year ago, the shutters of Prime Photographers’ cameras are constantly exemplifying their “belief in the power of the image” through their work. With one vetted photographer boasting the most prized award in journalism — the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography in 2006 — talent abounds within the group. The collective supports one another while offering a variety of talents from all across the world. Though the group has yet to produce a documentary project together, future plans are already in motion, according to a New York Times article.

Most notable work for the collective: Melanie Burford’s  “A Mother’s Will,” a moving black and white picture story documenting a mother’s love and sacrifice after her daughter was raped at the age of four, represents some of the group’s strongest work.

By: Brendan Hoffman

By: Dominic Bracco

By: Lance Rosenfield

By: Max Whittaker

By: Melanie Burford

By: Pete Mulller


2. Razón Collective

In late 2009, five young photographers came together to share, edit, and inspire one another as they traipsed the globe in search of truth and meaning. With a collective focus on humanitarian rights in war-torn nations, and with three experienced conflict photographers, Razón’s business plan is more casual than other collectives, but with bi-monthly Skype calls, the members maintain a close-knit system of support. While collectives like Prime seek diversification in members’ style of photography, Razón photographers all have a highly artistic and interpretational style, with work that plays on lights and darks, and compositions that are both jarring and pleasing to the eye. 

Most notable work for the collective: It’s a close tie between Brian Frank’s  American Dreamscape and Jared Moossy’s new HBO documentary series, Witness.

Dreamscape: After a two-year personal hiatus, Frank is back behind the camera with a new project documenting the ethereal concept of “self” as he traveled across America on a road bike.

Witness: Tackling a new role as director of photography, and strapped to a video camera rather than a still, Moossy’s four-part documentary gives a behind-the-scenes look into the usually anonymous lives of conflict photographers.

By: Jared Moossy from Somalia


3. Luceo Images 

When Luceo Images launched five years ago, the founding members may not have realized they were pioneering a radical change in the field. Their success since has helped inspire other shooters to band together. Beyond any other collective, Luceo has blended business, personal, and artistic relationships — so much so that the six founding members don’t even have bios displayed on the group’s main webpage. With a mastery of self-promotion through new media and social media tools, Luceo is the prime example of a successful and innovative photo collective.  Though half of the groups’ six members parted ways last April, the support system fostered a strong footing before embarking on other opportunities.

Most notable work for the collective: The groups’ collection, Greater than the Sum transformed an entire gallery by wrapping a 162-foot collage of images along the walls. Five hundred people then came to cut the seamless piece of art, repositioning into new meaning.  The event was meant to highlight the successful collaborative nature of these artists.   

This list represents just a glimpse into the work of these collectives. Check out their websites for more documentaries, portraits, and stories that span the globe.