Chronicle Photographers Reflect on Their Most Memorable Photos of the Year

The view from here

Jana Birchum

It's hard to write about the year just past. It was so different than the previous few – 2020-2021 with endless COVID news, 2022 with the reemergence, tentative as it was. This year was often just bad news for my community – drag bans, gender affirming care bans, homophobia everywhere. It made me dig in more to the celebration of my community, as you can see here. All my good photos were of women, trans, and nonbinary folks this year. It's getting hard for us to stay in Texas.


Brigitte Bandit, drag activist, at the Texas State Capitol. I didn't feel like this was an easy shoot for her. The hearings at the Capitol on anything related to gay or trans issues are just soul-draining. The hate is so palpable. And it always dresses itself up as "concern for the children." Brigitte teared up when we went inside. I admire her courage to confront the homophobes face-to-face in a 2-foot-tall Dolly Parton wig. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

If you want a (late) night of fun, go see one of the House of Lepore's drag balls at Swan Dive. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Unhoused women evicted from the Downtown Salvation Army shelter when it closed. Their fear and anger were so clear. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

John Anderson

On January 22, almost 10 months before the deadly Hamas attack on Israel, a small group of students peacefully gathered outside the annual Israeli-American Council summit at Fairmont Austin to protest Israel's blockade of Gaza. With a significant police presence, most summit attendees ignored the protesters, but a few mocked and argued with them. The protest took place without incident but was a minor, local representation of the struggles the Palestinian people have endured for decades. At the global level, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledged the Hamas terrorist attack "did not happen in a vacuum."


Supporters of Palestine protested Israel's blockade of Gaza during the Israeli-American Council summit at Fairmont Austin on January 22. (Photo by John Anderson)

On November 13, an estimated 10,000 protesters rallied at the Texas State Capitol and marched through Downtown to show support for Palestinians in Gaza and to oppose Israel's deadly military retribution. (Photo by John Anderson)

Photo by John Anderson

David Brendan Hall

In music photography – the vast majority of what I contributed to the Chronicle this year – there are exceptionally rare moments when the first image captured during a shoot is the one. This was just such an instance, when Kendrick Lamar walked on stage for his headlining set at ACL Festival's second weekend (Oct. 13), a bright, solid-white backdrop resulting in only his silhouetted profile. As I maneuvered through the remainder of the three songs (for those who may not know, the standard allotment in a photo pit for media photographers), I knew in the back of my mind that I had it, a photo which, for me – a longtime appreciator who's made it a point not to miss any of his visionary tours in the past decade – felt definitive of Kendrick's consistently raw, enigmatic presence. After lowering my camera, I instinctively let out an audible "fuck yeah." A little bit of luck perfectly coalesced with years upon years refining the craft, and if that type of moment isn't inspiration enough to continue creating no matter the odds, I don't know what is.


That shot of Kendrick Lamar (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs dazzled with a twirl of color and pure joy on Sunday of ACL Festival's second weekend (Oct. 15). (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Jenny Lewis and Ben Gibbard of the Postal Service faced off for a sweet moment during their show at Germania Insurance Amphitheater (Sept. 9). (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Isabella Martinez

This year has been an exhilarating journey for me, especially when it comes to capturing moments at Austin Psych Fest and Levitation – two standout festivals that have defined my 2023. Immersing myself in the vibrant tapestry of art woven into these events was a truly enriching experience. Among the many performances of the year, I selected snapshots of Ty Segall, Altin Gün, and A Place to Bury Strangers because their live sets were nothing short of extraordinary. The excitement I felt when I learned I would be photographing for both festivals was overwhelming, and I made it a mission to seize every opportunity to capture these remarkable artists. Witnessing Ty Segall shredding his iconic guitar solos was a breathtaking and emotional experience as it was the final leg under the Freedom Band name, along with his longtime bandmate Charles Moothart's last show. This performance took the lead and created memories that lingered long after the music faded. Altin Gün's Turkish psych-rock performance was also a standout at Levitation, keeping the crowd on their feet dancing throughout the night – an infectious energy that I loved and couldn't enough of. Lastly, my final pick was of A Place to Bury Strangers, who took festival engagement to a new level. In essence, these photos encapsulate not just the visual aesthetics of the festivals but the profound impact these artists had on me long after they had performed.


Oliver Ackermann from A Place to Bury Strangers finishing the set from the crowd during Austin Psych Fest's kickoff night at Mohawk. (Photo by Isabella Martinez)

Ty Segall shredding a guitar solo at Stubb's for Levitation. (Photo by Isabella Martinez)

Altin Gün playing an electrifying Levitation set at Empire Garage. (Photo by Isabella Martinez)

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John Anderson, Jana Birchum, David Brendan Hall, Isabella Martinez

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