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LightBox on Tumblr is a window into the lens of LightBox, a blog by TIME’s photo department that explores how photography, video and the culture of images define today’s world.

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TIME presents the top 10 photographs of the year — the images that moved us most in 2012, along with the backstories from the photographers who shot the now iconic frames.

RJ Sangosti. Denver, Colo. July 27, 2012:
I, like most of my community, was still trying to make sense of why a gunman would walk into a crowded Aurora movie theater and fire randomly. Twelve people were killed and 58 wounded. It was hard for me to imagine a crime of this magnitude in a movie theater — a place that I myself go to escape life for a moment. One of the lives lost that night was of Jonathan Blunk, a five-year U.S. Navy veteran, who left behind a wife and two children. In this photograph, Chantel Blunk, Jonathan’s wife, paused on the tarmac at Denver International Airport before boarding the same plane as her husband’s body. The plane was bound for their home in Reno, Nev., where a full military funeral would take place. As this was occurring, a faint rainbow appeared over the hearse.

In a moment of sorrow, a glimpse of Chantel’s innocence and youth appeared despite the overwhelming process of military tradition and personal chaos she was trapped in.”

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