Help reveal a world that is still closed

By on December 27, 2021 0


In March 2020, as lockdowns took hold around the world, The Times travel bureau launched a new visual series to help readers cope with their lockdown. We called it The World Through a Lens – and, frankly, we didn’t expect it to last that long.

But as the weeks turned into months and months into years, we continued to post photo essays every Monday morning, transporting you – virtually – from the islands of Maine to the synagogues of Myanmar, and around 100 other places in between.

We hope the series provided you with some solace and distraction throughout the pandemic – and perhaps a chance to immerse yourself, so momentarily, in a remote place or culture that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Below are some of our favorite World Through a Lens essays from last year. (You can browse the full archive here.)

For Christopher Miller, a photographer based in Juneau, Alaska, two roads – the Glenn Highway and the Richardson Highway – formed the backbone of a gorgeous late spring road trip. And instead of sacrificing comfort, he traveled in style: in a motorhome, the epitome of the American automobile.

“I looked out the window at the late spring flora, which bordered the valley of the Matanuska River, until a jerk in the road brought me back to my reality: I was rolling down the road, staggering and swaying. with the equivalent of an efficient apartment. as a rear passenger.

Christophe miller

Learn more about RV life on the Alaska Highway →

Between 2014 and 2020, Frank Herfort visited more than 770 Soviet-era metro stations, including stations in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Uzbekistan. He also visited a handful of cities whose metro systems, although not officially attributed to the Soviet Union, were built or significantly altered during the Soviet era, including metro stations in Bucharest, Budapest and Prague.

His goal? Create as complete an archive as possible of the subways.

On the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, the local Zapotec community has long accepted – and celebrated – a group of people known as muxes, who are born male but take on associated roles and identities. Women’s.

Photographer Núria López Torres first discovered Mexican muxes, which are widely considered a third genre, after working on a series of gender identity projects in Cuba and Brazil.

In 2020, Roff Smith, a travel photographer anchored by the pandemic, began bringing a camera and tripod with him on his morning bike rides, filming them as if they were magazine assignments.

What started out as just something to do – a challenge of trying to see your familiar surroundings with new eyes – quickly turned into a celebration of traveling close to home.

For more than 15 years, geologist and photographer Jason Gulley has explored and mapped ice caves from Nepal to Greenland, venturing into vast icy mazes to study their relationship to melting glaciers and climate change.

Among his discoveries: rising temperatures form caves inside glaciers in Nepal’s Everest region that rot inward and outward glaciers.

In the Brazilian town of Olinda, a group of thrill seekers have embarked on an illegal, death-defying pastime: riding outside public buses.

Photographer Victor Moriyama first discovered this hobby via a video posted on Facebook. In less than an hour, he was exchanging messages with the surfers and planning his trip to Olinda.

“During my week-long visit with the surfers of the bus in 2017, I felt happy and free. In a way, they allowed me to revisit my own roots: during my adolescence, growing up in São Paulo, I too adopted certain risky and transgressive behaviors.

Victor Moriyama

Learn more about Brazilian bus surfers →

After a chance encounter in Olympos that sparked his interest in traditional Greek clothing, photographer George Tatakis decided to do a project exploring the invisible corners of his country – to meet people, learn about their traditional practices and take pictures along the way.

“For me, photography is much more than the images themselves. I have a passion for rural Greece and love to explore the concept of xenia, or hospitality, a central virtue that dates back to ancient Greece.

Georges tatakis

Learn more about the vibrant traditional culture of Greece →


For centuries, the St. Kilda Archipelago, one of the most remote and ruthless outposts of the British Isles, has electrified the imaginations of writers, historians, artists, scientists and adventurers. Its mouth-watering history is replete with a rich cultural heritage, distinctive architecture and haunting isolation, not to mention disease, famine and exile.

When travel bureau editor Stephen Hiltner toured the archipelago with his brother and sister, the 85-mile boat ride on rough seas left some passengers huddled in discomfort. But the windswept landscape was from another world.

Emerging as a mirage from their surroundings, the San Pedro Community Gardens have provided physical and spiritual nourishment for decades to generations of Angelenos immigrants.

When photographer Stella Kalinina discovered the gardens in 2019, she immediately connected with expressions of nostalgia for ancestral lands.

“As an American of Russian-Ukrainian descent who moved to the United States as a teenager and later married a second-generation Mexican American, I am drawn to stories of migration, of broken ties. , the aspiration to its own culture and to the construction of new homes. “

Stella Kalinina

Learn more about the San Pedro Community Gardens →

In 1986, when he was 12, Joel Carillet – whose family had moved to Papua New Guinea to work with a Bible translation organization – visited the site of a WWII aircraft that crashed in the jungle near the village of Likan.

His return, some 33 years later, sparked a series of reflections on the different ways the site – and his experiences in Papua New Guinea as a child – shaped it, then and now.

The dense metropolis of Kolkata is one of the only places in India – and one of the few in the world – where fleets of hand-pulled rickshaws still ply the streets. The men who exploit them are called rickshaw wallahs; some pull their rickshaws for more than 10 miles a day while carrying several hundred pounds.

Photographer Emilienne Malfatto documented the men and their work during a grant for a photography workshop.

“Rickshaw wallahs do not earn their living serving tourists. Their clientele consists mainly of local Kolkatans: shoppers coming and going from the markets, or residents passing through the narrow streets of the city.

Emilienne Malfatto

Learn more about Kolkata’s rickshaw wallahs →

Driven by his interest in the cultures and traditions of his home state of Kentucky, Luke Sharrett photographed his first tobacco crop eight years ago. Every year since then, he has returned with impatience.

At Tucker Farms in Shelby County, 25 men from Nicaragua and one from Mexico do the grueling seasonal work that Americans largely avoid. The work is physical, repetitive and exhausting. Long days are punctuated by a few short breaks and a lunch of homemade beans and rice.

Deep in the Altai Mountains, where Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia meet, the Kazakh people have for centuries developed and maintained a special bond with the royal eagles.

In October 2019, after living and working in northern Iraq for almost three years, photographer Claire Thomas began working on a personal photography project that draws on her background and affinity with horses.

To begin with, she flew to western Mongolia to meet and photograph iconic Kazakh hunters, riders and herders.

“Externally, documenting traditional lifestyles in western Mongolia contrasts sharply with the time I have spent photographing scenes of conflict and suffering in Iraq. But the two subjects share a common theme: the human struggle not only to survive, but to build a better future for oneself and one’s family.

Claire Thomas

Read more about Kazakh eagle hunter in western Mongolia →

Throughout the 30-year dictatorship of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan through a long series of wars and famines, the pyramids of Meroe have seen few international visitors and have remained relatively unknown.

But after the revolution that led to Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster in 2019 and the removal of Sudan from the US terrorist sponsorship list, the country’s archaeological sites were finally on the verge of receiving attention and wider protections.

In early 2020, photographer Alessio Mamo traveled to Sudan to visit the ancient city of Meroe, whose pyramids were built between 2,700 and 2,300 years ago.

“The pyramids of Meroe – around 200 in total, many of them in ruins – seemed to be in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape, as if the wind had smoothed their edges to welcome them among the dunes.”

Alessio Mamo

Learn more about the archaeological treasures of Sudan →