Favorite Visual Stories Of 2017

Dec 26, 2017
Originally published on December 26, 2017 1:56 pm

In a year packed with news, NPR Visuals used data, photography, video, illustration and more to tell stories that tie us all together. We looked for opportunities to push beyond the expected and find ways to connect with more people.

Our team collaborated on national and international stories about politics, health, education, immigration, music and more. These stories all show humanity and reflect what life is like in different parts of the world. We collected our favorite visual stories from 2017, which include everything from breaking news events to lengthy investigations to stories that made us smile.

In 2017, politics dominated the news cycle along with the solar eclipse and hurricane coverage in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. There was still room for important stories on public school vouchers, a photographer documenting her parents' lives with cancer, internally displaced people in the country of Georgia, among others.

We paired these stories by showing what it's like to become an American citizen, hearing what pigeon racing sounds like in Indonesia, illustrators sharing their perspectives from music festivals across the globe and experiencing a raccoon cafe. Here is a look back at the stories that resonated with us in 2017.


What Democracy Looks Like: A Portrait Of Inauguration Weekend

On Jan. 20, Donald J. Trump became the 45th president of the United States. Between the inauguration ceremony and the Women's March on Washington, hundreds of thousands of people came to the nation's capital to be heard.


Maps Show A Dramatic Rise In Health Insurance Coverage Under ACA

The overall increase in the number of Americans with health insurance draws attention to counties where the uninsured rate is still high, many of them in states that chose not to expand Medicaid.


President Trump's First 100 Days, In Photos

As President Trump crossed the 100-day marker, photographer Gabriella Demczuk's photo essay explores some of the major events that have transpired in the White House and on Capitol Hill.


Refugees In Their Own Country

Officially, they're known as "internally displaced people," or IDPs, and there are 40 million of them across the globe – outnumbering refugees by more than 2 to 1. They have fled within their own countries – mostly in the Middle East and Africa, but also in Latin America and Europe.

They rarely demand the world's attention. The international system isn't responsible for their well-being; their own governments are.

In Georgia, a country of 4 million, roughly 1 in 20 people has been internally displaced by war in the past three decades. The government has done its best to accommodate them.

But many are traumatized. And stuck. Most have been waiting, hoping against hope for decades, to go back home.


I Am Learning Inglés: A Dual-Language Comic

In a dual-language classroom, sometimes you're the student and sometimes you're the teacher. Here's a comic that shows what it's like for 6-year-old Merari growing up in Washington, D.C.

Read the comic in Spanish.


From The Big Top Into The Big World: A Ringling Ringmaster's Final Bow

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been entertaining audiences for a long time. Its history goes back 146 years — to about the time when professional baseball emerged and before Coca-Cola was invented.

But this substantial chapter in American history comes to a close on Sunday. After years of declining ticket sales and seemingly endless conflicts with animal rights groups, Ringling Bros. will stage its final show in Uniondale, N.Y.

Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson is one of hundreds of Ringling performers and crew members with extraordinary talents who will be out of a job come Monday. Recruited fresh out of college, where he'd been studying voice performance and training to be a professional opera singer, he became Ringling's first African-American ringmaster in 1998.


What Would We Lose If We Wiped Out Vampire Bats?

The overwhelming majority of bats are friends of humanity. They gobble up the insects that bite us and ruin our crops. They pollinate flowers and they replant forests by spreading seeds around. But as agriculture overtakes rain forests and jungles, humans have come into conflict with one bat species: the common vampire bat.

In Latin America, vampire bats drink the blood of livestock. Very rarely, these bats contract rabies. Before they die, they can spread the deadly virus to pigs, chickens, cows — and even humans. The disease costs farmers in Latin America $30 million every year andkills dozens of people. In March of this year, a man in Brazil reportedly died of rabies after being bitten by a vampire bat.

Ranchers, whose livelihoods are threatened, want the government to wipe out this threat. But is extermination the best course of action? Would the world be better without vampire bats? Is there anything that makes them worth saving?


The Promise And Peril Of School Vouchers

In 2011, state lawmakers began the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, a plan to allow low-income students to use vouchers, paid for with public school dollars, to attend private, generally religious schools. Now the state's private school voucher program is the largest of its kind in the U.S.

Public schools are required to accept all students, regardless of disability. Voucher schools are not. In many cases, it's not the students who choose the schools but the schools that choose the students.

Whether voucher programs are "social justice" or "an assault" on public schools depends on whom you ask.


Our Last Year Together: What My Camera Captured As My Parents Died Of Cancer

Photographer Nancy Borowick captured her parents' deep love and joy in life, even as they endured treatment in their 50s for the cancers they knew would soon kill them.

"As a photojournalist, I did the only thing I knew: I picked up my camera and documented my parents' dual cancer treatments for the next 24 months and our lives as they unfolded," Borowick says. "From the seven-hour chemotherapy infusions to running errands with Mom according to her to-do lists, I was there with my camera slung across my shoulder."


Learn More About The Trump-Russia Imbroglio

Russia's intelligence services interfered in the 2016 presidential election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump win, the U.S. intelligence community says.During this time, American spy agencies say, they also found that people connected to Trump's campaign were communicating with Russians in ways that caused "concern."The story has raised many big questions. So NPR News has created this resource of background information to try to help make it all a little clearer.


Uzbek Family Starts A New Chapter In Its American Journey

Erkin Rahimov, 54, and his wife, Limara, 42, immigrated to the U.S. from Uzbekistan and became American citizens at a naturalization ceremony in Kansas City, Mo., in January.

In 2009, after many years of trying, Erkin and Limara won the green card lottery to immigrate to the U.S. So, in March 2010, they left behind their life in Uzbekistan, a harsh authoritarian state. They landed in Kansas City with their two sons — 6-month-old Rasool and 9-year-old Murad — and not much else.

"I remember when we came to Kansas City with two small kids and three suitcases. It was challenging," Erkin recalls. "The first days we were sleeping on the carpet. We just put sheets on it." For pillows, they used their clothes. Then, he says, "slowly, slowly we started to work and buy some stuff."

Now, after seven years in the U.S., the Rahimovs own their home.

More stories from NPR's special series - Our Land

The Legacy Of The Mississippi Delta Chinese

A Native Village In Alaska Where The Past Is Key To The Future

Pig Farming In Iowa Means Dirt Under Your Fingernails And A Strong Sense Of Pride

When The Border Is Just Next Door, Crossing It Is A Fact Of (Daily) Life


Video: Animal Cafes Are Cool, But Does A Raccoon Cafe Go Too Far?

In NPR's Elise Tries series, correspondent Elise Hu tests out new experiences in East Asia. Here she visits a South Korean animal cafe. Things don't go as smoothly as planned.


NPR Music Series: Views From

We asked four illustrators across the world to attend a music festival and draw their experiences.

Views From: Germany's Küchwaldrauschen Festival

Views From: Oxford's Supernormal Festival

Views From: The 'No Rubbish' Rock In Japan Festival

Views From: Warped Tour's 23rd Year


Eclipse 2017: One Nation Under The Sun

The 2017 total solar eclipse made its way from Oregon to South Carolina. Fourteen states were in the path of total darkness — the first time a total eclipse covered such a wide swath of America since 1918.

On one hand, an eclipse is an astronomical event, a coincidence of satellite size and location. But it's a cultural experience, too: a moment we can't help but imbue with meaning.


Live Coverage: Follow The Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse made its way from Oregon to South Carolina on Aug. 21. Fourteen states were in the path of total darkness. See highlights from the astronomical phenomenon's journey across America.


Make Your Own Eclipse Viewer

Hundreds of years before solar viewing glasses were readily available, scientists and casual spectators could still enjoy these rare celestial events without frying their eyeballs. They'd use a combination of pinholes and mirrors to redirect the sun's rays onto a screen.

It took a while to figure out how to build the so-called camera obscura. Ancient Chinese and Greek scholars puzzled over pinholes for centuries before an Arab mathematician and scientist came up with a design.

You can rig up your own version with simple household items.


PHOTOS: Houston Flood Caused By Harvey Sends Residents Scrambling For Safety

The remnants of now-Tropical Storm Harvey have all but parked over south Texas and the storm is inundating the region around Houston with "unprecedented" rain, according to the National Weather Service.

Houstonians have been stranded in their homes, and some of those who were on the roads were in need of rescue as areas of Houston received as much as two feet of rain with no immediate end in sight.

Then-Hurricane Harvey made landfall late Friday evening near Corpus Christi, Texas, as a Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest storms to make landfall in recent history.


At Al-Salam Mosque In Houston, All Are Welcome

A day after the hurricane hit Houston, Al-Salam mosque in Houston welcomed people displaced by flooding. "I'm Catholic and my husband is Jewish, but it is beyond all that," says one volunteer.


A Sergeant's Mission To Return Home To Puerto Rico

Antonio Santini was willing to do anything — as long he got to Puerto Rico. He'd be a perfect asset for the U.S. Army's Hurricane Maria mission: He spoke Spanish and he knew the terrain. The sergeant first class had been all over the world with the military — Germany, Peru, Qatar, Afghanistan — but this mission, to an island devastated by a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds, was "deeply personal."

More stories of Hurricane Maria's aftermath and recovery

In Puerto Rico, Relying On Luck And Enough Gas To Get Medical Care

With Bottles And Buckets, Puerto Ricans Seek The Water To Survive

A Weekend With 7 Vendors Of San Juan, Illustrated

If A School Becomes A Shelter In Puerto Rico, Where Do Students Learn?


Web Comic: A Scientist Runs For His Life And Finds His Dream

It was a life-and-death journey out of Aleppo, Syria. Nedal Said could never have imagined how it would end.


'Jazz Is The Mother Of Hip-Hop': How Sampling Connects Genres

Watch pianist Robert Glasper demonstrate how three samples from jazz tracks by Ahmad Jamal and Herbie Hancock served as source material for famed hip-hop producers J Dilla and Pete Rock.


NPR's Book Concierge: Our Guide To 2017's Great Reads

NPR staff and critics share the books they loved this year. Use our tags to filter over 350 books and find the perfect read for yourself or someone you love.


The Pigeon Racers Of Indonesia

Racing requires a pair of pigeons. The male is the racer, and he flies back to the female during the race. But some Indonesian men love this sport so much, it's been blamed for a rise in divorce.

More stories from Indonesia

PHOTOS: Indonesia At A Crossroads

Indonesia's Youth Share Thoughts On Religion, Identity And Dreams

PHOTOS: A Tranquil Ferry Between Indonesian Islands

Transgender Women Of Indonesia Have A Champion In A 26-Year-Old Doctor


How Black Americans See Discrimination

Obscured as the picture may be, black Americans take the existence of discrimination as a fact of life. That's according to a new study conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which asked black respondents how they felt about discrimination in their lives and in American society more broadly.

Almost all of the black people who responded — 92 percent — said they felt that discrimination against African-Americans exists in America today. At least half said they had personally experienced racial discrimination in being paid equally or promoted at work, when they applied for jobs or in their encounters with police.

More stories from NPR's special series - You, Me And Them: Experiencing Discrimination In America

Native Americans Feel Invisible In U.S. Health Care System

Poll: Discrimination Against Women Is Common Across Races, Ethnicities, Identities

Poll: Asian-Americans See Individuals' Prejudice As Big Discrimination Problem

New Generation Of Transgender Americans Wants To Change Laws, Not Just Minds

Scientists Start To Tease Out The Subtler Ways Racism Hurts Health

There's An Immigration Gap In How Latinos Perceive Discrimination

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