It’s not a lack of gripping covers, it’s simply that the newsmagazine creates the annual list and keeps itself out of it.
Here are the top ten TIME magazine covers for 2009:
A striking original TIME photograph by Adam Ferguson gets all the credit for mirroring public reaction to the war in the shot of a single soldier on a smoke break. The image captures the vastness of the effort while putting a face on the fight. It tells the public and the Obama administration that there’s more at stake than just a war, it’s the uncertainty of this man’s life.
After a dozen covers featuring the nation’s first African-American president, TIME captured the essence of his wife, Michelle Obama, in perhaps the strongest cover of a first lady in the nation’s newsmagazine history. The magazine used darkness for emphasis, creating a contrast that grabs readers. Obama’s expression reads that she’s ready to take it on and make history. Now if only Eminem wasn’t popping out of her hair.
It may be the same style as Vladimir Putin’s 2007 Person of the Year cover, but that’s only because it’s from the same source: Platon Photo. Ted Kennedy’s cover photo is a haunting posthumous tribute, complete with a cold heavenly glow. The cover is a face that tells a tale, a portrait of age and time, a legend engraved in wrinkles. Kennedy’s mournful stare seems to indicate that he is joining the reader to reflect on his life.
Yves Marchland and Romain Meffre offered a poignant portrait of downtrodden Detroit for the first in a series of special reports on the failing city. The wistful image of urban decay bathes in the warm glow of sunset or sunrise, it’s left to the reader to decide, creating a “glass-half-what?” paradox. Either the good times are ending, or they’re just beginning, and the article about how Detroit might be poised for a comeback, completes the tone. Two figures walk alone in the deserted street, silhouetted as anyone who could be surveying the wreckage of a titanic, even the reader of the magazine, as if it’s possible to take a tour on location.
Just two issues after TIME’s cover story on Twitter, Iran made it to the cover with a commanding picture of a woman taking the forefront of the revolution, representing the people. Despite being a digitally altered image, the photo perfectly illustrates the power of the citizen to evoke change. It’s the overriding majority that makes a difference here, and TIME shows it off with beauty.
When two words and a piece of clip art make an impact, it’s usually on a poster hanging in a college dormitory. However, TIME not only pulls off the trick but also masters the brilliance of it. Labeling the Republican party as ‘threatened’ in a new political regime, TIME attacks but protects. It’s a simplistic cover, but executed strategically, therefore giving it power over the party itself. How many other magazines can effectively put a political party in its place?
Choosing softer fonts and pastel colors to emphasize the sinking marriage in the center, TIME took the photo illustration to the next level. A sagging cake representing the death of an institution coincides with the death of a rock star. A legacy and a tradition, each fighting for survival, all playing out on one cover in bright colors. It’s the lightest dark mood you’ll find.
In a historic moment Christopher Morris captured the America of the next four (or eight) years. The swearing-in of Barack Obama on January 20 represented a new era and the story told itself. Hand aloft, wife at his side, Bible in scene, Obama’s peaceful air commanding the scene, the image froze the hope of the moment, perserving it for the tougher times ahead. TIME’s cover didn’t capture the political, it capitalized on the personal.
TIME takes the defensive with a cover that asks people to throw away their previous notions regarding the economy and adopt a new frame of mind. The magazine takes its own advice, leaving the cover clean, free of excess words and imagery. In doing so, it sets an example, visually stating “it’s okay to keep it simple. It’s better this way.” TIME is daring the American public to take notice.
With 100 days of photographs to choose from, TIME selected this one of President Obama with his back to America, striding into the White House. Callie Shell asks readers to make up their own mind. Is he walking toward progress or is he secluding himself into hiding after 100 days of the most stressful job there is? Either way, there’s something up ahead and we’re left behind unless we follow.