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Best Arts Photos of 2023



Deadheads, ballerinas and Mick Jagger: As 2023 winds down, revisit a memorable handful of the thousands of images commissioned by our photo editors that capture the year in culture.

“I was not so much interested in the way this mother mimicked the Nativity scene because the parallels were evident. I was looking to capture a genuine moment of engagement with the family. The story about Dollywood was about the decadence of Christmas decorations, but it was also about the way families share time together.” — Stacy Kranitz

“As a kid who grew up racing go-karts, I had dreamed of attending an F1 race. Still, I had no idea what to expect in Miami. With a fake marina, a fake beach club and a set by Post Malone, the event was more over-the-top than I could have anticipated. So I was extra excited when I stumbled onto moments like this one, removed from all the glitz and glamour of the weekend.” — Scott Rossi

“On the night I met Judd, I think she was still mourning the loss of her mother, but she was very calm and stoic as she carried on with the opening night of the tour without her. Here, we were in her dressing room together. I wanted to show the focused, almost trance-like state she was in as she powered through the loss and carried on with the show. (She sprayed the hair spray for over 60 seconds, and we were surrounded by fumes.)” — Thea Traff

“Tom Cruise seemed to have a moment of primal connection with nearly everyone in the room. Here you can see him embracing Jamie Lee Curtis as Steven Spielberg, Hong Chau and Michelle Williams wait in the wings.” — Sinna Nasseri

“I’ve long admired Jason Moran as a full, ranging, complex Black musician who is committed to caring for our Black musical histories. Getting the opportunity to photograph him in his home was a serious honor. Watching him play the piano, his limber fingers gliding across the keys faster than my eyes could follow, was meditative and transfixing, like watching the whirling dervishes.” — Gioncarlo Valentine

“Shooting dance can be difficult because things move very quickly. When I saw the dancers enter this particular position, I knew I had to ask them to hold it for a photo, because it exemplified their relationship with one another, onstage and off.” — OK McCausland

“Hong was part of a New York Times Oscars portfolio on Asian American nominees, and I wanted the little pocket mirror Hong is holding to represent the piercing and nuanced reflections these artists gave to us through their movies.” — Justin J Wee

“We were at Wo Hop in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and the room was so small that only the director, camera operator, assistant director and I could squeeze into a corner without appearing on camera. The costume design alongside the colorful space was unbelievable — and surrounded by only the cast and extras, it strangely felt like I was transported to the ’60s!” — Heather Sten

“Maybe these were Swifties or possibly Swifties’ parents. Either way, these particular fans seemed content enjoying the concert from afar.” — Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet

“This photo was taken during a rehearsal, and watching the projectionist work in real time — watching him adjust and refine his technique — was illuminating. The amount of work and precision juxtaposed with the gesture and improvisational quick nature of his drawings really drew me in.” — Lila Barth

“A light snow dusted the ground as the cast and crew of ‘Rust’ prepared for the first scene of the rebooted production at the Yellowstone Film Ranch in Montana. When photographing performances or film sets, I aim to step back and create images that show the elements of the filmmaking process overall. There’s an obvious subtext here, but the context — the Montana landscape, the crew, the equipment — is an important counterweight to balance it.” — Todd Heisler

“There is a moment in the production when Greg Tannahill, who played Peter Pan, goes ‘flying’ with intentional haphazardness through the air while harnessed in a flying rig. This skillfully performed moment of planned chaos goes by in the blink of an eye, so I took advantage of every single frame before, during and after the scene. The show is about chaos, so I had no choice but to embrace it and try to anticipate and chase this moment. It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to think, I had to just shoot.” — Dolly Faibyshev

“The life of Chita Rivera is defined by movement. When I photographed her, at age 90, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect of the legendary Broadway star. The moment she stepped into frame, her charisma and energy filled the room. Onstage, Chita is timeless.” — Philip Montgomery

“I photographed John at his ranch a few hours outside of LA. It was a very warm, dry day, and at the end of the shoot, I motioned to the pool and asked John, ‘How does swimming sound?’” — Chantal Anderson

“I was amazed by how embodied Trenary was. I thought a principal ballerina might be very controlled, but she was so raw and authentic both as a person and in the way she danced.” — Thea Traff

“All the dancers moved so gracefully, I genuinely felt like I was photographing actual birds. I wanted to be as close to the dancers as possible to feel like I was a part of the flock. In this frame, the dancer on the sand was the first one to move away from the group: just like any bird that suddenly leaves the flock and the other follows after.” — Amir Hamja

“Dead shows are one of the few places where I can find myself completely enveloped in my own world yet feel connected to the thousands around me by a single thread of music. I wasn’t exactly thinking about that when I took this photo, but this woman exemplified that feeling perfectly. It’s a feeling that keeps us coming back show after show after show after show.” — Peter Fisher

“Elizabeth is someone who holds such grace and height that just exudes so magnetically on set. We were winding down, and I asked her if she could turn to her profile. The shape that her entire body held — neck extended, looking into the light — I knew that was the last shot.” — Jingyu Lin

“I attended U.F.O. Days as a kid, many years before I was a photographer. Returning to Elmwood for this shoot around a theme that’s long held America’s attention was a great way to reconnect with a place that’s always captivated my memory.” — Erinn Springer

“I wanted to create an image that shows the face he puts on for a crowd. I think this result is effective because it’s both performative and weird!” — Thea Traff

“Even though these kids are on a world stage, they are able to lose themselves while they wait in line to enter their classroom. They don’t notice me or my camera; they are completely living in the moment.” — OK McCausland

“This was a light test and the first shot that afternoon — one of those happy accidents. She hit her mark, brought her hands together and took a breath. I checked my focus, framed my shot and took a breath. Then, both of us now composed, we began.” — Erik Carter

“This was my attempt at capturing the voyeuristic nature of the audience in this production. In the final scene, they are very aware that they are watching something unfair unfold. I thought this view, paired with the enormity of the set and the color, showed an interesting angle on the production.” — Lila Barth

“John Stamos was the most energetic person I photographed this year, hands down. He was constantly in motion, cycling through poses and ideas. Once in a while, he’d flash me a look that seemed to stop the Earth’s rotation.” — Sinna Nasseri

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