See our most striking original illustrations and photography of the year

Curated by the NBC News Digital Art Department
Dec. 20, 2022

In a year in which Russia invaded Ukraine, democracy was tested at home, bitcoin and Brazilian butt lifts became mainstream, and Americans grappled with challenges ranging from mpox to online misinformation, NBC News worked with illustrators and photographers to produce an array of stunning art that captured the biggest stories of 2022. Here are some of the best works:

How an urban myth about litter boxes in schools became a GOP talking point

At least 20 Republican politicians have claimed that schools are making accommodations for students who identify as cats. The school districts say these claims are untrue.

Illustration by Robert Beatty

2022 New Year’s predictions draw some to astrology. Here’s why you should stay away.

Pseudoscience enriches charlatans at the expense of the public and distracts people from the very real science that can make the world a better place.

Illustration by Justine Goode

Crypto boom opens door to a new class of landlords

Startups are offering people a way to buy stakes in rental homes for as little as $50 through blockchain-based tokens.

Illustration by Daniel Jurman

Ukrainian refugees embark on a 15-hour train journey to safety

More than 4 million people fled Ukraine in the month after the Russian invasion. The war and the resulting refugee crisis not only threatened to reshape Europe’s geopolitical landscape and plunge the world into a new Cold War, they also upended the lives of millions of Ukrainians who, overnight, were forced to give up their homes, professions and families to try to find safety.

Reporter Yuliya Talmazan and photographer Jacobia Dahm traveled with a handful of Ukrainian families after they fled the war and embarked on a 15-hour train journey from the Polish town of Przemyśl to the German capital, Berlin.

Photography by Jacobia Dahm

CPS workers search millions of homes a year. A mom who resisted paid a price.

Child protective service agencies inspect the homes of roughly 3.5 million children annually. Only about 5% are ultimately found to have been physically or sexually abused.

Photography by Stephanie Mei-Ling for NBC News and ProPublica

Spiraling costs and crumbling public services leave millions in Britain struggling to live

NBC News spent a week in the seaside town of Morecambe, speaking with dozens of people about the real costs of this story of Western poverty.

Photography by Susannah Ireland

The internet’s meth underground, hidden in plain sight

Regular meth users say online platforms have fundamentally changed the experience of using, worsening parts of an already blazing global meth addiction problem.

Illustration by Ibrahim Rayintakath

In Uvalde, a community of deep Latino roots is further bound by grief

The predominantly Hispanic city with a rich Mexican American history is grappling with the need for support, “because these families need it.”

Photography by Liz Moskowitz

Family trees fill in the gaps for Black people seeking their ancestral roots

Black people have been able to connect with the past and give new agency to their identities through building family trees and researching their family histories.

Illustration by Eliana Rodgers

One flood-ravaged Kentucky community is suing a coal company, saying its negligence made damage even worse

The plaintiffs allege that the failure of the companies’ silt ponds, aggravated by the mining operations’ damage to the land, led to the widespread destruction of their community.

Photography by Michael Swensen

Satanic panic is making a comeback, fueled by QAnon believers and GOP influencers

Baseless accusations are branding people as satanist pedophiles at the speed of the internet — just ask a GOP prosecutor who recently lost re-election.

Illustration by Bendik Kaltenborn

A new attorney helped clear an innocent man of a murder sentence after 32 years in prison

Natlie Figgers logged 2,000 hours working for free to exonerate Thomas Raynard James after misidentification and suspect police work sent him to prison in Florida.

Photography by Saul Martinez

Facebook’s rules ban promoting weapons. Some gun sellers are running ads anyway.

The Tech Transparency Project said in its report that it found 173 ads that it believes violate the apps’ ad policies by searching the apps’ online ad library over two weeks in August. 

Illustration by Anuj Shrestha

Paradise lost: Inside Peru’s emergency zone

 Illegal gold mining in southeastern Peru has fueled the destruction of a massive swath of rainforest and the killing of dozens of environmental activists.

Photography by Florence Goupil

‘It made me feel low’: Black students urge passage of Crown Act to end hair discrimination

The bill passed the House in March, but it does not have a clear path forward in the Senate.

Photography by Imani Khayyam

How mpox spoiled gay men’s plans for an invincible summer

Queer men across the U.S. talked to NBC News about the dates they never went on, the sex they never had and the gatherings they avoided due to the viral outbreak.

Illustration by Anjali Nair

Behind the BBL hype: Why one influencer regrets her ‘Brazilian butt lift’

In a murky regulatory system, med spas advertise BBLs on Instagram alongside influencer promotions. One patient detailed why they aren’t happy with their results.   

Illustration by Lily Lambie-Kiernan

Meet those willing to spend at least 12 hours in line to say their final goodbyes to Queen Elizabeth

For the last time, loyal subjects wait to pay tribute to their beloved queen in a miles-long line that snakes through London.

Photography by Alice Zoo

A mother’s painful pursuit of justice: Inside a war crimes investigation in Ukraine

Olga Kotenko had to bury her son twice as war crimes investigators across the country work to hold Russian forces accountable for alleged atrocities.

Photography by Pete Kiehart

Why more Black people are looking for safety in gun ownership

A rise in hate crimes and anti-Black vitriol sparked a 58 percent increase in Black people purchasing firearms in 2020. The spike seems to have continued.

Photography by Peyton Fulford

Bitcoin investment simulator: Can you beat the market?

Workers may soon be able to put some of their retirement savings in bitcoin, but the crypto crash has made it clear what a risky bet it is. Use our tool to see how bumpy the ride’s been.

Illustration by Erik Carter

Has the obsession with Alabama #RushTok gone too far? Viewers don’t think so.

The rush-related TikToks, which featured aspiring sorority members documenting their journeys to getting a bid, garnered millions of views last year.

Illustration by Bea Oyster

What’s that bag of white stuff? Some Uber drivers worry they’re drug mules

While it’s not clear how often drugs are an issue for Uber’s package delivery service, it’s a hot topic in online forums for drivers.

Illustration by Ibrahim Rayintakath

Teens were sent to Wyoming ranches for therapy. They say they found a nightmare of hard labor and humiliation.

Two Christian programs are accused of forcing troubled teens to do heavy farm work. One man says he was branded with a cross. Three women say they were tied to a goat as a punishment.

Photography by Will Crooks

Major U.S. police departments plagued by officer-on-officer sexual abuse and retaliation

An NBC News review of more than 60 lawsuits costing taxpayers more than $40 million found disturbing accounts of sexual misconduct against female cops in big-city departments.

Photography by Natalie Keyssar

‘We say gay’: Florida’s largest Pride parade draws hundreds of thousands

It was St. Petersburg’s first LGBTQ Pride march since the onslaught of the Covid pandemic, and it comes just three months after Florida’s governor signed what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Photography by Melody Timothee

Disinformation via text message is a problem with few answers

While there’s now a cottage industry and federal agencies that target election disinformation when it’s on social media, there’s no comparable effort for texts.

Illustration by Shira Inbar

Texas shooting leaves Sandy Hook survivors with anger, grief and a personal sense of failure

“It’s a horrible burden to bear," said a teacher in Newtown, Connecticut, who survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

Photography by Sarah Wilmer