ESSENCE Year in Review: 100 Photos We Loved in 2016

In a digital universe of constant movement and change, photographs still prove to leave a lasting effect on our perspective and our worldview.  Through images, we are able to connect to people and experiences — locally and oceans away — while using the medium to tell our own stories and capture our own realities. And in 2016, we had no shortage of riveting, iconic, harrowing and beautiful images that shocked the world, made us think and inspired change. From the election that rocked the nation, to the Olympics and beyond, we’ve rounded up the top photos of 2016.

1 of 100 AP Photo

We love this playful moment between The President and First Lady

2 of 100 Kevin Winter/Getty Images for BET

Beyonce completely owns the stage while performing her song Freedom at the BET Awards.

3 of 100 Cameron Spencer/2016 Getty Images

Bronze medalist Kristi Castlin, gold medalist Brianna Rollins and silver medalist Nia Ali of the United States leap for joy at the Rio Olympics.

4 of 100 Getty Images

A protester wearing an American flag faces police during an anti-Trump protest in Oakland, California.

5 of 100 John Shearer/Getty Images for

Drake leans in for a kiss from Rihanna and proclaiming his love for her onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards.

6 of 100 Tia Simon-Campbell

This colorful bunch did it big at The African Street Style Festival 2016 in London.


Obama traveled to Athens Greece during his last international trip as President. **tears**

8 of 100 Island Boi Photography

"Ubuntu: I am what I am because of who we all are." Model: Ericka Hart

9 of 100 REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

A woman stands her ground peacefully as a group of police officers in riot gear try to apprehend her during a peaceful protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

10 of 100 Emily Malan Photography

Stylish women were spotted serving a message on the streets of NYC during New York Fashion Week, SS/17.

11 of 100 Patrick Melon

Students and alumni gathered at the Mecca for another year's epic homecoming

12 of 100 Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Usain Bolt competes in the Men's 100 meter semifinal on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

13 of 100 NurPhoto via Getty Images

Can they please be best friends and do everything together?!

14 of 100 Image Group LA/ABC via Getty Images

Courtney B. Vance shouts out his wife Angela Bassett after winning for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series at the Critic's Choice Awards.

15 of 100 Greg Noire

Ciara caught killing it at ESSENCE Festival 2016

16 of 100 @marjore_harvey/ instagram

The Harveys and The Obamas take the most epic holiday pic ever!

17 of 100 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Superwoman Simone Biles tumbles through the air on the balance beam during the Women's Individual All Around Final at the Olympics.

18 of 100 Trevor Stuurman

We can't get over the beauty and culture seen at ESSENCE Festival Durban!

19 of 100 Michael Stewart

Ciara is infamous for her effortless beauty looks, sun kissed hair and model-worthy bone structure. 

20 of 100 @MichaelRowePhotography

Ms Carey commands the stage duing ESSENCE Fetival 2016.

21 of 100 Twitter

Students protest a racist hair rule at a school in Pretoria, South Africa.

22 of 100 Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The First Couple looks so good here that it hurts!

23 of 100 Denisse Benitez

This pair gave us major #couplesgoals at the 2016 AFROPUNK Festival in Brooklyn.

24 of 100 Patrick Melon

Protestors take a stand after the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

25 of 100 Jordan Matter

A shot from the gorgeous book Dancers After Dark by Jordan Matter.


1:05 a.m Washington Heights, New York, NY

26 of 100 Scott Olson/Getty Images

Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

27 of 100 Trevor Stuurman

We can't get over the beauty and culture seen at ESSENCE Festival Durban!

28 of 100 Taylor Hill/WireImage

Maria Borges shows some love as she walks the runway during the 2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in Paris.

29 of 100 Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Backstage Creations

Taraji P. Henson slayed this look at The 47th NAACP Image Awards.

30 of 100 Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Diana Ross.

31 of 100 Win McNamee/Getty Images

Barack Obama shakes hands with Donald Trump after the election results, as a watchful Martin Luther King bust sits by Trump.

32 of 100 Karwai Tang/WireImage

Winnie Harlow slays the red carpet at The Fashion Awards 2016 in London.

33 of 100 Jerod Harris

Viola Davis gets emotional during her acceptance speech at the 22nd Annual Critics' Choice Awards.

34 of 100 Scott Olson/Getty Images

Protestors celebrate the cease of the Dakota Pipeline dig.

35 of 100 Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ellen Degeneres tears up as President Obama awards her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

36 of 100 Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Q-Tip attends "They Got It From Here" Album Premiere Event for A Tribe Called Quest at MoMA PS.1  in NYC, their first album in 20 years.

37 of 100 Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Victoria's Secret

Maria Borges,Jourdana Phillips and Herieth Paul pose prior the 2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

38 of 100 Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Ye performs onstage in Inglewood, CA.

39 of 100 Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Beauty Jasmine Tookes sported this year's million dollar bra.

40 of 100 Alex Wong/Getty Images

We love this photo of Michelle Obama with Olympic Medalist Simone Biles.

41 of 100 Jacopo Raule/GC Images

Zendaya heats up the southern shores of Italy while shooting a Dolce & Gabanna campaign.

42 of 100 STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images

Purple confetti falls as "Purple Rain" plays to close out the Prince Official Tribute concert at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota .

43 of 100 Astrid Riecken

Barack Obama watches first lady Michelle Obama embracing former president George Bush, accompanied by his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, while participating in the dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

44 of 100 Larry Busacca/PW

Still drunk in love.

45 of 100 Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Fenty x Puma

Rihanna showed her latest FENTY x PUMA collection during Paris Fashion Week.

46 of 100 Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

We've been dying over Solo all year long and her Saturday Night Live performance was no exception.

47 of 100 Larry Busacca/PW

Beyonce takes one last look during her Final Peformance of "The Formation World Tour."

48 of 100 Todd Williamson/Getty Images

We're loving all this melanin at the premiere of Disney's Queen Of Katwe.

49 of 100 Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A statue depicting USA track and field athletes Tommie Smith, C, and John Carlos, R, as they raised gloved fists during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics is housed in the Sports Galleries at the NMAAHC.

50 of 100 Fred Watkins/ABC via Getty Images

Alvin Ailey dancers perform during Taking The Stage: African American Music and Stories That Changes America, a star-studded special commemorating the opening of the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

51 of 100 NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

A protester holds up her handsduring a demonstration against police brutality in Charlotte, North Carolina following the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

52 of 100 Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 4

The most talked about presentation during New York Fashion week took place at Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. The celeb attendees and fainting/stumbling models made for quite the show.

53 of 100 Christopher Polk

Best smile for the win!

54 of 100 Helene Wiesenhaan/Getty Images

Somaya Bousaid of Tunesia wins the Women's 1500m T13 Final during the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

55 of 100 Noam Galai/MTV1617/Getty Images for MTV

Beyonce and Blue Ivy Carter float on their way to the MTV Video Music Awards.

56 of 100 Robert Kamau/GC Images

Little North gives the cameras a rarely spotted smile and our hearts are melting.

57 of 100 Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Police officers face off with protesters on the highwa during protests in the early hours of September 21, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The protests begand after he fatal shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer.

58 of 100 Ian Walton/2016 Getty Images

Mohamed Farah of Great Britain reacts after winning gold in the Men's 5000 meter Final on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

59 of 100 Hannan Saleh

Al Malonga and Ayana Hipps attend New York Fashion Week Fall 2016.

60 of 100 Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Ogo Offodile during Paris Fashion Week Haute Couture F/W 2016/2017.

61 of 100 Joe Raedle/2016 Getty Images

Evacuees take advantage of the shelter setup in the The Baton Rouge River Center arena as the area deals with the record flooding that took place causing thousands of people to seek temporary shelters .

62 of 100 @petesouza

President Obama greets local people in Old Havana.

63 of 100 Paul R. Giunta/FilmMagic

Grace Jones serves the people at the FYF Fest in California.

64 of 100 Tom Pennington/2016 Getty Images

Ibtihaj Muhammad of the United States reacts during a match with Sofya Velikaya of Russia during the Women's Sabre Team Semifinals at th Rio Olympics.

65 of 100 PHOBYMO Photography

FKA Twigs shut it down on stage at the Budweiser Made in America Festival in Philadelphia.

66 of 100 Ryan Pierse/2016 Getty Images

Usain Bolt poses with fans on Day 13 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

67 of 100 Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Simone Manuel's face was pricelss when she won gold in the Women's 100m Freestyle Final on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

68 of 100 Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Dej Loaf makes a statement at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors: All Hail The Queens.

69 of 100 CBS via Getty Images

The First Lady Michelle Obama and Missy Elliott join James Corden for Carpool Karaoke on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

70 of 100 KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

Enough said.

71 of 100 Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Dallas Police Chief David Brown pauses at a prayer vigil following the deaths of five police officers last night during a Black Live Matter march n Dallas, Texas.

72 of 100 Kevin Winter/Getty Images for BET

We all realized how woke Jesse Williams was this year at the 2016 BET Awards.

73 of 100 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

LeBron James and Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after defeating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

74 of 100 @petesouza

The Obama ladies share a special moment at La Catedral de la Virgen Maria de la Concepcion Inmaculada in Old Havana.

75 of 100 Kevin Winter/Getty Images for BET

The funniest TV couple out there took to the stage at the BET awards.


76 of 100 Alex Wong/Getty Images

Janelle Monae arrives in stylen at the Nordic State Dinner at the White House.

77 of 100 Drew Angerer/Getty Images

That is one "nasty" woman <3

78 of 100 Mike Coppola/Getty Images

The coolest siblings on the planet at the "Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology" Costume Institute Gala.

79 of 100 Mark Wallheiser

Locals and family react to the shooting of Alton Sterling by police.

80 of 100 Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

Tika Sumpter, Zendaya and Aja Naomi King have a black girl magic moment at Glamour's Game Changers Lunch.

81 of 100 Raymond Hall/GC Images

Gabby an Dwyane gave serious #couplesgoals.

82 of 100 FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

 A rainbow-colored fist in honour of those slain in the gay nightclub Orlando shootings, the worst terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11.

83 of 100 Larry Busacca/2016 Getty Images

Nothing like a woke Kendrick Lamar show, this time during The 58th GRAMMY Awards.

84 of 100 Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

An aeriel view of the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium in Brazil.

85 of 100 Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3

Kanye soaks in the moment at the Yeezy Season 3 in New York City.

86 of 100 Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Obama channels his inner kid while blowing bubbles from a bubble wand made with a 3D printer by nine-year old Jacob Leggette while touring exhibits at the White House Science Fair.

87 of 100 Ezra Shaw/2016 Getty Images

The Super Bowl performance that sent racists into a tizzy, the singer paid homage to the Black Panthers and gave us the blackest Super Bowl halftime we've ever seen.

88 of 100 Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, Loretta Devine, Tika Sumpter, and Jada Pinkett Smith attend the 47th NAACP Image Awards.

89 of 100 Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for People Magazine

Uzo Aduba and her Orange is the New Black costars crack up backstage at the Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Gala.

90 of 100 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Steph mid air after making a shot against the San Antonio Spurs.

91 of 100 Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Gael Monfils of France dives for a forehand in his fourth round match against Andrey Kuznestov of Russia during day eight of the 2016 Australian Open

92 of 100 Chip Somodevilla/2016 Getty Images

President Obama sheds a tear of frustration and sadness due to gun violence.

93 of 100 Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Danielle flaunts her curves on the Christian Siriano x Lane Bryant runway.

94 of 100 Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Fans mourn then the day of the death of superstar Prince outside the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

95 of 100 Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Cynthia Erivo, Jennifer Hudson and Danielle Brooks celebrate 100 Performances at "The Color Purple" on Broadway.

96 of 100 Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A stunning view of the brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

97 of 100 Brett Carlsen

Zariah Garner, age 9, rests on a stack of water as national guard members and civilians carry cases to vehicles Flint, Michigan.

98 of 100 Harry How/Getty Images

Lawrence Erekosima #43 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after defeating the Clemson Tigers in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game

99 of 100 Michael Rowe

The cast of Queen Sugar stopped by the ESSENCE photo booth at ESSENCE Festival 2016.


Protestors set up a burning barricade as they clash with police during a protest for electoral reforms, in Harare Zimbabwe.