Best Wired Photo Stories of 2017: Fake Mountains, Space Selfies, and More

Powerful Images From Female Photographers at the Women’s March. WIRED talked with 14 women who not only attended the Women’s Marches in January, but also documented them. Nearly a year later, as women across the country break their silence about sexual harassment, these photos feel as poignant as ever.

The Fake Mountain Range That Appeared on Maps for a Century. During the 19th century, people believed a vast mountain range stretched across West Africa. It didn’t. But if it had, it might have looked something like the images in Jim Naughten’s photo series The Mountains of Kong.

From Factory to Boneyard: The Life Cycle of Planes, as Told in Stunning Aerial Photos. Planes have beginnings, middles, and ends—all of which Mike Kelley beautifully captured for Life Cycles.

Behold Burning Man’s Awesome and Totally Bizarre Architecture. Most people go to Burning Man for the costumes and parties. But Philippe Glade goes for the architecture. He’s been photographing the temporary, makeshift structures revelers construct since 1996 and compiled some recent favorites in his book Black Rock City, NV.

Humans Killed the Aral Sea. Now, It’s Come Back to Life. Few environmental stories have happy endings, but the Aral Sea one does. Photographer Didier Bizet’s photographs celebrate the Kazakh fishermen casting their nets into the lake once again.

Surreal Drone Photos Transform America Into a Roller Coaster. Turkish photographer Aydın Büyüktaş took a road trip through the American southwest for Flatlands II. His drone photos of the journey are stunning—but they might make you feel carsick.

Remarkable Photos Capture the Light That Plants Emit. All flowers glow. Don’t believe us? Check out these incredible photos of plants fluorescing by Craig Burrows.

Inside the Surreal Saudi Suburbia Built by an Oil Giant. Dhahran Camp may look like an American town, but it sits in Saudi Arabia. This exclusive, gated community houses international employees of Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company. Ayesha Malik’s photos capture the cultural limbo.

America’s Obscene Wealth, in Pictures. Lauren Greenfield examined the desire for affluence—or at least the trappings of affluence—in Generation Wealth. It’s an exhaustive study of the materialism and vanity that infects society at every level.

The Mad Opulence of Dubai, From Water Villas to Fake Forests. Some 15 million tourists visit Dubai every year. Photographer Nick Hannes documented the over-the-top luxury that attracts them for Dubai: Bread and Circuses.

Out on the Texas Ranch Where Scientists Study Death (NSFW). The 50-odd corpses that dot this 26-acre stretch of hill country belonged to people who donated their bodies so that scientists may better understand decomposition. It’s a harrowing place, but important work. Robert Shults respectfully documented it for The Washing Away of Wrongs.

Wanna See How Divided the Country Is? Visit the US-Mexico Border. Militiamen and humanitarian workers both patrol the border territory looking for folks who might try to cross. One group wants to stop them. The other wants to help them. Photographers Edoardo Delille and Giulia Piermartiri documented both.

Why Photos of President Trump Are So Aggressively Boring. For a businessman who knows the power of branding, the POTUS has showed a surprisingly inability to craft a presidential image that isn’t awkward, impersonal, and formulaic. This long read explores why.

15,000 UFO Enthusiasts Space Out Hard in Roswell. In July, WIRED sent photographer Angie Smith to document the annual UFO festival in Roswell, New Mexico. It was as weird as you’d expect. “Everywhere you looked you saw neon green,” Smith said.

An Insane View of the Milky Way From the Edge of New Zealand. There’s no place for stargazing quite like New Zealand, and this composite photograph by Paul Wilson is proof.

All Aboard Air Koryo, North Korea’s Fleet of Ancient Soviet Planes. The Hermit Kingdom’s fleet of 15 Soviet-era planes attracts aviation enthusiasts from all over the world, including Arthur Mebius. His book Dear Sky lets you fly along, too.

Before and After Photos Capture Devastating Flooding in Houston. Houston resident Aaron Cohan watched Hurricane Harvey pummel the city from the 25th floor of his high-rise apartment. His before-and-after images underlined the vast extent of the flooding from which the city is still recovering.

What It’s Like Living in the Land of Natural Disasters. Photographers Miguel Hahn and Jan-Christoph Hartung documented how Indonesians deal with the continual threat of everything from active volcanoes to wildfires for their gorgeous series Beauty and the Beast.

Explore an Abandoned Cold War Base in the Middle of the Ocean. Adak Island was once home to a sprawling US naval air station. But when photographer Ben Huff visited, he found—in his own words—“a forgotten island, now inhabited by a small group of hearty souls, living in the shadow of a war that never was.”

These Concrete Relics in Arizona Helped Satellites Spy on the Soviets. In the 1960s, the US government needed a way to calibrate its spy satellites. So it installed some 250 evenly spaced markers across the Sonoran Desert. For Ground Truth: Corona Landmarks, photographers Julie Anand and Damon Sauer tracked them down.

Magical, Striking Scenes From … Google Street View?. Jacqui Kenny takes street photography to Google Maps, capturing screen grabs of the fascinating people and places she finds there. “It’s a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack,” she says.

Iceland Is Beautiful Except for the 2 Million Tourists. They snap selfies, squeeze onto buses and generally tramp all over the place. Denis Meyer documented Iceland’s tourist boom for his dramatically titled series Iceland: The Silent Epidemic.

Explore a Tropical Paradise Through the Eyes of the Colorblind. As many as 10 percent of people living on the Micronesian island of Pingelap are completely colorblind. Belgian photographer Sanne De Wilde imagined how their world looks in her stunning book The Island of the Colorblind.

The DIY Cyborgs Hacking Their Bodies For Fun. Hannes Wiedemann’s Grinders is not for the squeamish. The gory book captures an underground community of hackers slicing open their arms, hands and ears to insert objects ranging from magnets to RFID tags.

2 Minutes of Totality in John Day, Oregon. Brian Guido’s black-and-white photographs captured the way the eclipse united people. “Everyone was just there experiencing this thing together,” he said. “It felt pretty special.”

A $70 ‘Worry Stone’ and Other Bizarre Spiritual Products You Can Buy Online. Klaus Pichler delved into the weird world of esotericism online, purchasing $1,500 worth of products that promised to do everything from protect against radiation to ward off police. His series This Will Change Your Life Forever catalogued the very weirdest.

Motorcycle Sleds + Vodka = A Very Russian Bike Rally. Take an old Yamaha motorcycle, add some runners and other stuff you’d find in your garage, and you have a unimoto. Race it across a frozen Russian lake and you’re at Snow Dogs, the insane biker meet-up photographer Alessandro D’Angelo documented in January.

Follow Eclipse Hunters on the Pilgrimage to Totality. Many people made journeys of hundreds, even thousands, of miles to watch totality hit. Rachel Bujalski documented the travelers she encountered while driving up Highway 97 in California.

Border Wars: The Great DIY Remote Control Car Race. The cars may be tiny, but the racing is serious at Border Wars. Minesh Bacrania photographed the annual tournament, which pits remote-control car enthusiasts from New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado against each other.

Apollo Astronauts Weren’t Just Heroes—They Were Fantastic Photographers. Photos of space abound online, but not like this. The gorgeous book Apollo VII – XVII took us inside the golden age of space photography with 225 newly restored and color-corrected images.

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