The photos that mattered to us most in 2015

To mark the end of the year, photo agency AP has rounded up its “most popular, highest-trending, most liked and shared photos posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.” In other words, the images that resonated most across social media in 2015 .

The 146-photo collection reveals a predictable range of events from sports to global crises. But once shuffled into the right order, what’s remarkable about this collection is how often the trending photos overlapped on the same topics, offering multiple perspectives on the year’s most important issues, events, and places.

Now that the year is over, here’s a chance to look at the images that mattered to us most with fresh eyes.

The year began and ended with Paris.

The year began with catastrophe—on Jan. 7, masked gunmen attacked journalists in the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, and then took hostages in a kosher grocery store. In response, Parisians took to the streets with the slogan “Not Afraid,” wielding pens as symbols of freedom. Months later, on Nov. 13, terrorists attacked again, taking the lives of 130 civilians. Though the Eiffel Tower closed for several days of national mourning, unprecedented demonstrations of solidarity spread across the world.

APTOPIX France Newspaper Attack
People gather to pay respect for the victims of a terror attack against a satirical newspaper, in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
APTOPIX France Paris Attacks
A bird flies in front of the Eiffel Tower, which remained closed on Nov. 14 and 15, 2015. (AP/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

The global refugee crisis became visible…

Civilians displaced by violence, hardship and natural disaster became impossible to overlook this year, as scenes of desperation—particularly at Europe’s closed borders—proliferated, and receiving nations lamented the burden of hospitality.

APTOPIX Hungary Migrants
Sept. 13, 2015: Migrants walk towards a checkpoint along the railway tracks near the border between Hungary and Serbia. (Balazs Mohai/MTI via AP)
APTOPIX Hungary Migrants
A Syrian refugee child looks out of a bus that will take him and his family to the center for asylum seekers near Roszke, southern Hungary, Sept. 11, 2015. (AP/Muhammed Muheisen)
Mideast Iraq Yazidi New Year Photo Gallery
April 15, 2015: A Yazidi woman whispers into the ear of her friend at the Yazidi New Year, at a shrine just 35 miles north of Mosul, Iraq. Thousands of Yazidi have been kidnapped or killed by militants with the Islamic State, and thousands more displaced from their homes. (AP/Bram Janssen)

…catalyzing fierce discussion of cultural values and integration.

APTOPIX Mideast Behind the Niqab Photo Essay
This photo was shot through the lowered veil of a niqab, worn by some conservative Muslim women, and shows the Giza Pyramids near Cairo. (AP/Hassan Ammar)
APTOPIX Spain Holy Week
A Catholic penitent casts his shadow as he takes part in a Holy Week procession in Arcos de la Frontera, Spain. (AP/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

The power of rainbows was finally revealed.

US Supreme Court Gay Marriage California
A large rainbow flag hangs down City Hall in San Francisco, June 26, 2015, following a US Supreme Court ruling that struck down bans on same sex marriage nationwide. (AP/Jeff Chiu)
The Week That Was in Latin America and The Caribbean Photo Gallery
July 30, 2015: Hundreds of houses painted in bright colors in what organizers claim is Mexico’s largest mural, is part of a government-sponsored project is called Pachuca Paints Itself, in Pachuca, Mexico. (AP/Sofia Jaramillo)

Anti-government protests around the world continued…

Mideast Egypt
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood gather in Cairo, Egypt, to protest the 20-year sentence for ousted president Mohammed Morsi on April 24, 2015. Morsi was convicted of using force against protesters during the Arab Spring in 2011. (AP/Belal Darder)
Burundi Political Tensions
A demonstrator blows his whistle in Bujumbura, Burundi, on May 6, 2015, during anti-government demonstrations sparked by the constitutional court’s validation of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term. (AP/Jerome Delay)

…and in Ukraine fueled civil war.

A Russia-backed separatist fighter sits in a self propelled 152 mm artillery piece, part of a unit moved away from the front lines, in Yelenovka, near Donetsk, Ukraine,Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. Russia's foreign minister is sharply criticizing Ukraine's insistence that it won't begin pulling back heavy weapons in its fight against separatists in the east until the rebels fully observe a cease-fire.
A Russia-backed separatist fighter sits in a self propelled 152 mm artillery piece, near Donetsk, Ukraine, Feb. 26, 2015. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian servicemen put their dogs under the jackets to keep them warm in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. The military conflict between Russia-backed separatists and the government forces in eastern Ukraine has been raging since April, claiming more than 5,100 lives, according to the United Nations.
Ukrainian servicemen put their dogs under the jackets to keep them warm in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Jan. 28, 2015. (AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Animals continued to capture hearts and minds.

Europe Africa The Week in Pictures
A May 3, 2015 photo shows US Secretary of State John Kerry taking a selfie with a baby elephant in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP/Andrew Harnik)
The Week That Was In Asia Photo Gallery
July 13, 2015: An Asian elephant swims a 65-meters long pool at Fuji Safari Park in Susono, at the foot of Mt. Fuji, southwest of Tokyo. (AP/Koji Ueda)

Sports pictures, less so.

APTOPIX Philippines Floods
Filipinos play basketball in floodwaters from a swollen creek at a coastal village in Malabon, north of Manila, Philippines, on July 8, 2015. Typhoon Chan-Hom has enhanced the seasonal monsoon. (AP/Aaron Favila)
Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal of Spain eyes a ball at the quarter-finals match of the Rio Open tennis tournament against Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb. 21, 2015. (AP/Felipe Dana)

We shared images from the ends of the Earth…

APTOPIX Haiti Supermoon Lunar Eclipse
Sept. 27, 2015 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The full moon was seen prior to a phenomenon called a “Super Moon” eclipse. (AP/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Pictures Of The Week Photo Gallery New Hampshire Daily Life
Ice extends several feet horizontally from a sign marking the summit of 5,774-foot Mount Adams on Nov. 17, 2015, in New Hampshire, USA. (AP/Robert F. Bukaty)

…but kept a soft spot for neighbors.

It was the 70th anniversary of the war that split North and South Korea, a bitter reminder for the families who can now only reunite during special diplomatic field trips.

North Korea Anniversary
Veterans turn toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he delivers a speech during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, Oct. 10, 2015. (AP/Wong Maye-E)
The Week That Was In Asia Photo Gallery
In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo, members of the South Korean honor guard throw their guns in the air. (AP/Lee Jin-man)

Faith and community remained central to the human experience…

The Vatican’s Pope Francis built his brand this year, with a fiery encyclical letter calling for action on climate change, a new book, a rock album, and several historic international visits. During the Muslim hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in September, a crush of believers caused a deadly stampede that left hundreds dead, and many nations pointing their fingers at one another.

APTOPIX Vatican Pope
Pope Francis Pope presides over mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican on April 2, 2015. (AP/Gregorio Borgia))
APTOPIX Mideast Saudi Arabia Hajj
In this Sept. 9, 2015 photo, Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP/Amr Nabil)

…as did the power of nature.

Indonesia Volcano
A farmer tends to his field as Mount Sinabung releases pyroclastic flows in Tiga Pancur, North Sumatra, Indonesia on June 13, 2015. (AP/Binsar Bakkara)
The Week That Was In Asia Photo Gallery
In this Nov. 20, 2015 photo, an elderly man tosses fallen gingko leaves into the air in a park in Beijing. (AP/Mark Schiefelbein, File)
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