The Most Inspiring Photographs Of 2016

“This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It is also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both”, Rebecca Solnit – writer, activist and all-round dream dinner party guest – wrote earlier this year. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Whichever way you cut it, 2016 has been a seismic year. As the global migrant crisis has unfolded in unimaginable horror across the world, an ugly rise in hate crime and alt-right mentality has swelled in the wake of Brexit and Trump, and devastating new developments in climate change studies have emerged, you’d be right in thinking that this year has been a particularly terrible one.

If the events of this year (and history, in general) have taught us anything though, it’s that in times of uncertainty, action is key. Counteracting the darkness that has plagued this year have been great swathes of motivated and altruistic human responses to suffering – from small acts of solidarity like the #IllWalkWithYou hashtag trend that surfaced in August after two Muslim men were fatally shot in New York, to a number of remarkable, overwhelming human rights achievements. The Polish parliament rejected plans for an abortion ban after thousands took to the streets in a nationwide protest on October 3rd, and later in the year, permission to drill through sacred lands at Standing Rock for the Dakota Access Pipeline was denied in a huge victory for activists and Native Americans that had spent months fighting the cause.

“Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away”, Solnit advises us. “Together we are very powerful, and we have a seldom-told, seldom-remembered history of victories and transformations that can give us confidence that, yes, we can change the world, because we have many times before.”

In this album, Refinery29 looks back at some of the pictures that moved us, inspired us and stayed with us in 2016, and celebrates both the people that remind us that there is beauty in the world, and those that continue to make sure important stories are heard.