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From animated moon poop to the church of Instagram: the Vox images and illustrations that explain 2019

A sampling of our very best original photography, illustration, animation, and design this year.

The rise of the star-studded, Instagram-friendly evangelical church; Illustration by Christina Animashaun

At Vox, we like to explain things with lots and lots and lots of words. But when words aren’t enough, and often they aren’t, visuals become an integral part of our storytelling. As the visuals editor, I rely on our team of talented visual journalists as well as a bevy of skilled freelance photographers, illustrators, and artists to visualize complicated stories.

These journalists are often called on at moment’s notice to help us solve challenges like: “Can you show democratic rot?” “Can you explain how we left human poop on the moon?” “I need you to show us what the end of civilization looks like.” Or, “Can you photograph loss in a new way?”

I’m nearing my 20th year as a photojournalist-turned-visuals editor. The rush I felt behind the camera is replaced by the thrill of perfectly pairing a visual journalist with a story. If I do my job right, when you close your eyes and think about the piece you just read, you remember what it felt like because the visuals took you there.

These are the best photographs, illustrations, animations, and graphics Vox published in 2019, the ones that forced me to stop, think, feel (not always in that order), and consider the story. I hope they do the same for you. See y’all next year. —Kainaz Amaria


Apollo astronauts left their poop on the moon. We gotta go back for that shit.
Illustration by Javier Zarracina/Vox

I don’t eat meat. Should my dog?
Illustration by Shanée Benjamin

The rot at the heart of American democracy
Illustration by Christina Animashaun/Vox

Plant-based meat and the knock-down, drag-out fight for the American diet
Animation and illustration by Magoz

“Heritage travel” is surging in the era of DNA testing. It has a special significance for black Americans.
Illustration by Christina Animashaun/Vox

Is America’s future capitalist or socialist?
Illustration by Christina Animashaun/Vox

The secret life of Kim Jong Un
Illustration by Javier Zarracina/Vox

The 2020 Democratic primary debate over reparations, explained
Illustration by Christina Animashaun/Vox

Accelerationism: the obscure idea inspiring white supremacist killers around the world
Illustration by Chris Malbon

Angry Birds and the end of privacy
Illustration by Zac Freeland/Vox

We are (still) the 99 percent
Illustration by Christina Animashaun/Vox

How to avoid wedding drama
Illustration by Zac Freeland/Vox

The fight for the bundle is the war for the future of TV
Illustration by Zac Freeland/Vox

How The Good Place taught moral philosophy to its characters — and its creators
Illustration by Christina Animashaun/Vox

Dothraki spoken here
Illustration by Zac Freeland/Vox

The long shadow of “hot Jesus”
Illustration by Zac Freeland/Vox

Everyone wants to Instagram the world’s most beautiful canyon. Should they?
Illustration by Andrea D’Aquino

Perfectionism is killing us
Illustration by Jason Raish

How Reese Witherspoon became the new high priestess of book clubs
Illustration by Helen Green

Can monoculture survive the algorithm?
Illustrations by Elisa Cox

The biggest lie tech people tell themselves — and the rest of us
Illustration by Zoë van Dijk

It’s not what Trump did. It’s what Republicans accept.
Illustration by Amanda Northrop/Vox

Capitalism is turning us into addicts
Illustration by Christina Animashaun/Vox


The way forward for Me Too, according to founder Tarana Burke
Photograph by Miranda Barnes

Supertrees: Meet Congo’s caretaker of the forest
Photograph by Sarah Waiswa

America has a housing segregation problem. Seattle may just have the solution.
Photograph by Jenny Riffle

Pramila Jayapal is Congress’s activist insider
Photographs by Kainaz Amaria/Vox

“Am I a bad person?” Why one mom didn’t take her kid to the ER — even after poison control said to.
Photograph by Allison V. Smith

The not-so-secret life of a TikTok-famous teen
Photograph by Stacy Kranitz

Will luxury towers edge out the last of the working-class Chinese in New York’s iconic Chinatown?
Photograph by Mengwen Cao

Home health aides care for the elderly. Who will care for them?
Photograph by Adria Malcolm

The extraordinary danger of being pregnant and uninsured in Texas
Photograph by Callaghan O’Hare

Meet the teens who love Bernie
Photograph by Elaine Cromie

The hired guns of Instagram
Photographs by Ilana Panich-Linsman and Melissa Golden/Redux

The survivors
Photograph by Mason Trinca

Supertrees: Meet the Amazonian giant that helps the rainforest make its own rain
Photograph by Victor Moriyama

Ousman Darboe could be deported any day. His story is a common one for black immigrants.
Photograph by Desiree Rios

“America’s surrender”: What Afghans think about US-Taliban peace talks
Photograph by Christopher R. Jones

My own private Iceland
Photograph by Styrmir Kári and Heiðdís

Design and graphics

The ultimate guide to the Donald Trump impeachment saga
Design by Amanda Northrop/Vox and Heather Shoon

Impeaching the president, explained
Instagram story design by Zac Freeland/Vox

“America’s surrender”: What Afghans think about US-Taliban peace talks
Graphic by Christina Animashaun/Vox

25 Episodes That Changed Television
Design by Amanda Northrop/Vox

Instagram story design by Amanda Northrop/Vox


These 3 supertrees can protect us from climate collapse
But can we protect them?
Photographs by Victor Moriyama (Brazil), Ardiles Rante (Indonesia), Sarah Waiswa (Congo)
Design and graphics by Amanda Northrop and Ryan Mark
Video editing by Madeline Marshall
Visuals editing by Kainaz Amaria


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