Here are our photographers’ favorite photos of 2022 — and why

Sun-Times visual journalists reveal which images they were most proud of from this past year.

Sun-Times visual journalists Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere, Pat Nabong, Ashlee Rezin, Brian Rich and Anthony Vazquez took thousands of photos this past year across the city and suburbs.

We asked each of them to pick their favorite one from all of their assignments.

Here’s what they chose:

Rob Heitz, 41, was paralyzed in 2003 after diving head first into shallow water in Lake Michigan in Racine, Wisconsin. This summer he’s shown training in Lake Michigan near Ohio Street Beach for a 1- to 2-mile swim in San Francisco Bay Aug. 19. Heitz, who describes himself as a “high-functioning quadriplegic,” injured his spinal cord in the 2003 accident and said he still feels weakness and tingling on the left side of his body.

Rob Heitz takes a training swim in Lake Michigan near Ohio Street Beach Aug. 16.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Pat Nabong

This photo of 41-year-old Rob Heitz, who was training in Lake Michigan to swim from Alcatraz Island to the shore in San Francisco, is one of my favorites because everything I typically look for when I make a photo came together — emotion, light and story.

As I photographed him getting ready, Heitz recounted how he had been paralyzed and become a quadriplegic in 2003 after a Racine, Wisconsin, boating accident in the same lake that he was about to swim in that August morning.

The sun started to rise as he got in the water. I noticed the silky quality of the waves and the golden sparkles that seemed to form from the sunrise bouncing off Lake Michigan. I knew it would make a good photo, and the mood matched the story. So I followed Heitz as he swam back and forth in an almost straight line. It took me several minutes to get the right light and gesture, since I had to wait for him to swim to a precise spot in the lake. And because he was swimming quickly, it took me awhile to get a sharp image where everything came together.

This was a quieter moment among many photos of him with his hand raised in the middle of a freestyle stroke, and it stands out to me because he looks like he is gliding, completely at peace in the water. The mood that the light gave off and the graceful moment felt fitting for a story about pain and resilience.

A woman walks with her dog dog a top ice mounds on the lakefront as fog blankets the area near Montrose Beach, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2022.

A woman walks with her dog Feb. 21 atop ice mounds on the lakefront as fog blankets the area near Montrose Beach.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere

For my favorite image of the year, I chose this weather feature I shot in February near the Montrose Dog Park. What draws me to this image is its surrealist nature. The apartment buildings in the background appear to be rising from the fog, making it look like they are floating in the distance, while it looks as if this woman is walking along some tall mountain peaks.

As part of my exercise routine, I ran along the lakefront that morning. I thought I could compose some neat weather features with the fog, so I decided to head back to the lakefront when my shift began. As the day went on, the fog began to let up, presenting me with different composition opportunities. I was observing the area for potential images when I noticed a woman walking her dog along an ice mound that had formed on the beach. This is one of the most unique weather images I’ve shot this year.

Highland Park residents gather for a 2 minute moment of silence for the victims of the July 4th shooting in Port Clinton Square. Monday, July 11, 2022.

Highland Park residents gather for a 2 minute moment of silence for the victims of the July 4th shooting in Port Clinton Square. Monday, July 11, 2022.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Brian Rich

I chose a photo from the moments of silence tribute for victims of the July 4th mass shooting in Highland Park, as this was easily the biggest story I was sent to cover this year. I was there the day of the shooting, as well as the days that followed, to cover the moments of silence for the victims and other tributes to them. People complimented the paper’s coverage of the tragedy, and I noticed the intense emotions of residents during the tribute. It reminded me of my first job covering violent stories for the ABC affiliate in my hometown of Rockford. I’m not sure if becoming desensitized to these types of events is good or bad, but I think it’s just a byproduct of the job.

Artistic Director for the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Nicole Clarke-Springer walks through a lesson with student Taylor Myles of the Deeply Rooted Arts Theater Emerging Artist Ensemble at the Mayfair Arts Center at 8701 S. Bennett Ave in Calumet Heights, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

Nicole Clarke-Springer, artistic director of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, walks through a lesson with student Taylor Myles at Mayfair Arts Center, 8701 S. Bennett Ave., on Feb. 24.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Anthony Vazquez

This photo has to be one of my favorites of the year. As I entered the dimly lit building, I was worried about there being enough light to capture the different movements in the dance. I set up my flash on a stand and started moving around the space alongside the dancer and instructor. While I photographed different moments of the rehearsal, I loved seeing the delicate guidance that Nicole Clarke-Springer gave student Taylor Myles. This shot capturing Taylor’s body mid-pose shows how strong she is as a dancer to be able to hold her position as Nicole adjusts it to perfection.

Chicago police officers salute as Officer Danny Golden leaves Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, Friday afternoon, July 15, 2022. Golden was off-duty when he was shot in the back and paralyzed after he tried to break up a bar fight July 9 on the Far South Side.

Chicago Police officers salute July 15 as Officer Danny Golden leaves Advocate Christ Medical Center in southwest suburban Oak Lawn.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin

The best part of my job is creating images that have a lasting impact on the sources, the readers and me. During the day-to-day grind, it can be easy to become desensitized and forget that we as photojournalists are often documenting some of the most important days in peoples’ lives.

Seemingly every news agency in the city was present when Chicago Police Officer Danny Golden was discharged from the hospital in July, days after being paralyzed by a shot in his back while off duty. To get a different perspective than the scrum of media, I ran around the back of the ambulance and stood behind the line of dozens of officers saluting Officer Golden.

I was taken by the overwhelming emotion on Officer Golden’s face as he put his hand on his heart while his stretcher was being wheeled toward the ambulance. Later, his cousin reached out to me to say that the Golden family was requesting permission to use the “beautiful shot” in a flyer for a fundraiser they were hosting. The Sun-Times happily gave permission for the family to use the photo, with credit.

I am always grateful for reminders that the images we make and the stories we tell can have a profound effect.

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