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Cover Story: The Year in Photos 2014

From a tour of the abandoned Clermont Hotel to Outkast's reunion tour, here are 22 of our favorite photos of 2014

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JOEFF DAVIS

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Every year I take on the daunting task of sifting through thousands of Creative Loafing photographs to choose my favorites from both my work and from that of our contributors. Once the images are chosen, the photographers write about what they see and feel in their images. The above photo was shot at Mammal Gallery. Founders Brian Egan (left) and Chris Yonker are pictured. The scene was lit from below to emphasize their shadows across the bright lines behind them.

The best pictures are like a puzzle, capturing universal emotions with just enough hints to make it personal. A great photo stops you, it makes you linger and contemplate. It teaches you. It makes you ask questions and gives you answers. It makes you wonder. — Joeff Davis, photo editor

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JOEFF DAVIS

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3:18 P.M. AUG. 24, RED TOP BEACH ROAD, ACWORTH: Sometimes life feels out of control and there is nothing we can do to redirect it. To me, this photo captures that feeling. When I shot it, it felt like 150 degrees outside and I was in charge of the tiny baby strapped to my chest as my wife tried to put my other daughter down to nap in the car. As I walked up the hill I found people of all ages hurling themselves off an outcrop into Lake Allatoona. I listened to the voices as people debated with themselves and each other whether they were bold enough to take the plunge. Suddenly, this teenage boy ran forward full blast through the crowd and did a perfect flip in the air before crashing to the lake. This photo captures the awkwardness from the in-between moment of his dive.

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JOEFF DAVIS

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2:22 P.M. JAN. 16, 789 PONCE DE LEON AVE. N.E.: Early in the year I spent about a week exploring the abandoned Clermont Hotel for a story on its future redevelopment. Day after day I wandered the empty hotel alone with my camera and tripod, exploring the stairwells, the hallways, and the rooms. It was a rainy week and the sound of trickling water from floor to floor accentuated the creepiness of being alone in the haunting interior. I wore a mask over my face much of the time, which exaggerated my breathing sounds in my ears and added to the spookiness. Strange things happened while I was there. Windows would open that I thought had been closed and things would mysteriously be in different places from day to day. At one point, I was accidentally locked in the hotel for hours. Just seeing this photo gives me the creeps. It captures what it felt like to be there.

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JOEFF DAVIS

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12:28 A.M. JUNE 10, 156 BRANTLEY ST. N.E.: In June I spent a week photographing at the "Yellow House," a place that had become a cultural center for the freaky and the disenfranchised artists of Atlanta. Several bands and artists lived in the house. With its low rent and squatterlike conditions, the place became a work of art itself. When word came it was going to be torn down to build condos, we decided to try to capture its spirit by documenting the house the week before one of its final house parties. This photo, for our annual music issue, is from the party. The main stage was in one of the bedrooms where, just days before, I had stood beside a resident's bed. For me, this photo portrays the exhilaration one feels in an uncontrolled space, as well as the community vibe the house engendered. The Yellow House was recently demolished. Condos coming soon.

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DUSTIN CHAMBERS

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3:05 P.M. FEB. 4, 1968 PEACHTREE ROAD: This is a photo of my grandmother Carol Miller's hands as she rests in the hospital, days before being transferred to hospice. Alzheimer's had taken a great deal away from her in the preceding five years. I'd always studied her hands, held them in my own, scrutinizing the exaggerated veins, joints, ligaments, all covered in a paper-thin layer of skin, and realizing time and time again that I was so far from understanding the breadth of life they'd known.

The next time I saw her, she had passed away. I'd never spent time like this with a dead person before. In my peripheral view I'd see her chest rise and fall, only to realize that, of course, her chest no longer did that. I sat with her. I held her hands and looked at them some more, turning them over, feeling the creases. From my birth to her death, a powerful loop in my life had come to a close for the first time. Sitting at her bedside, I realized that the qualities she bestowed upon me were concrete, almost quantifiable in the end, because, simply, there was no more of her to go around. It sounds clinical, but it led me to believe that pieces of everybody you experience in this world rest in you forever, whether you like it or not, to nurture the loops, big and small.

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MIA YAKEL

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12:15 A.M. AUG. 10, 2000 MORELAND AVE. S.E.: This photo was taken at the Starlight Drive-In, Atlanta's only drive-in movie theater. That night it had been pouring, a steady summer rain, but there was a brief moment when it lifted and people began to get out of their cars. I immediately grabbed my camera and started taking pictures, trying to capture the unique quality of the place. Everything came together at the right moment. I saw a woman's silhouette was framed in a doorway at the same instant that a light came on inside the car in front of me, illuminating the figures of the two men inside. The movie playing to the right, adding a third source of light amid a dark background, completed the shot. It was a passing moment, there only for a second before everything shifted.

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DUSTIN CHAMBERS

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10:36 P.M. APRIL 27, BASS FERRY ROAD, ROME: This was shot at OutKast's first show in Georgia in 10 years, when they were the final act at the Counterpoint Festival. I grew up on Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and the Beatles, thanks to my dad; Phantom of the Opera and Into the Woods, thanks to my ma; and Southern rap music, thanks to Atlanta. It was my first time seeing OutKast, and it was a big deal. Years ago my friends and I would talk about what we'd do to see OutKast perform. Things like mortgaging our houses were what we came up with (we still don't have houses).

On this night, I had the sense this notion was true for everyone there. We all had our stories, memories, expectations. We'd already imagined the imminently approaching experience a hundred times over. When the curtain finally dropped and the first few instrumental twinkles of "Bombs Over Bagdad" started playing, signaling inevitable chaos just a few breaths away, a collective cry of relief and rapture erupted from the crowd. The moment had arrived, and we all savored every last drop.

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JOEFF DAVIS

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3:22 P.M. JULY 17, 265 PEACHTREE ST. N.E.: Besides the tasty drink (a Polaris Manhattan) shown in this image, I love this photo because it's like a puzzle. The drink sits on a table at Polaris, the restaurant at the top of the Downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel, and behind it is a building covered with glass. The glass on the building is actually reflecting the blue-domed restaurant where I am standing as I take the picture. Get it?

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JOEFF DAVIS

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5:50 P.M. JUNE 20, 1781 DRESDEN DRIVE N.E.: For our July 4 issue, I interviewed and photographed immigrants to America about why they came to the United States. It was powerful hearing so many different stories. Geshe Wangden Tashi (pictured) told me through a translator about his harrowing journey to escape Tibet when he was only 15. He talked about how he and his friends had climbed over the largest mountains in the world in the dead of winter and how they had nothing to eat, and how his friends lost their toes during the journey. He also told me how it had strengthened his faith. At the end of our talk he asked if I would photograph him meditating, and I did. For me, this will always be a photograph of a faithful man with a gentle soul.

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JOEFF DAVIS

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6:11 P.M. AUG. 7, 3011 BUFORD HIGHWAY N.E.: I got a glimpse into the drag queen world while shooting backstage at Lips Atlanta, a drag dinner theater. The drag queens who perform there arrived in their street clothes and transformed themselves in front of me. I was struck by the camaraderie of the performers.

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JOEFF DAVIS

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7 P.M. OCT. 26, 260 14TH ST. N.W.: A lot of political debates remind me of bad acting or championship wrestling. Sometimes it's hard to see what is real and what is fake — do these people really hate each other? This year the debates I covered seemed a little more personal than in years past. The debates seemed completely reduced to finger pointing and he-said/she-said misrepresentations of the various candidates' records. This off moment, right before the U.S. Senate debate started between Libertarian Amanda Swafford (from left), Republican David Perdue, and Democrat Michelle Nunn, felt as real it gets as the various actors put on their game faces.

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JOEFF DAVIS

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12:20 A.M. MARCH 20, 206 WASHINGTON ST. S.W.: Every year at the Georgia Capitol, our legislators throw all of their papers into the air to celebrate the end of the session. I always feel like the Senate and House's trashing of the upper and lower chambers, respectively, and quick departure constitute the perfect symbol of their work. For this photo of the lower chamber, I snuck into the balcony after most people had left and quickly shot this picture from the viewing gallery. For me, it captures the utter disarray in which the lawmakers leave our hallowed hall.

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JOEFF DAVIS

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10:47 A.M. JULY 17, FAIRLIE STREET: Sometimes, walking in Downtown Atlanta feels like a never-ending fight between darkness and light. You can see the most beautiful things, then a second later you could see something that may forever alter your soul. For me this photograph of a woman walking along the street feels like a metaphor for somebody finally leaving the darkness for the light. Unfortunately, in a few steps she will go back into the darkness.

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JOEFF DAVIS

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10:17 A.M. AUG. 6, 168 LUCKIE ST. N.W.: I think you can feel a good photo in your gut, and this photo makes me slightly uneasy. It was for a story about SkyView Atlanta, the Downtown Ferris wheel, and how well you can see Atlanta's skyline while riding. Instead, when I climbed aboard, I found myself unable to stop staring at the ground below.

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DUSTIN CHAMBERS

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3:01 P.M. MARCH 31, 2575 HARRIS ST.: At 2:45 p.m. every weekday, a bell goes off at Tri-Cities High School that signals the beginning of a complex ballet of buses and students. They glide and stride atop the freshly paved path where the buses line up. I got the opportunity to see this daily feat in March, while photographing for Creative Loafing's 2014 OutKast feature, "Straight Outta Stankonia." André and Antwan attended Tri-Cities and consider the experience to have been highly formative. At 3:01 p.m., just as students were nearly all seated in their respective buses, a couple stopped to embrace before parting ways for the day. It's quintessential high school love: all consuming, time-stopping.

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ERIC CASH

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7:23 P.M. AUG. 18, IVAN ALLEN JR. BOULEVARD: Protesters assembled outside the CNN Center in Downtown Atlanta on Aug. 18, 2014. Thousands had gathered with signs, fliers, and megaphones ready to show support for Ferguson, Mo.'s protests over the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. After a rally with many speakers, the crowd started marching around Downtown. As soon as the crowd stepped into the streets the sky began to darken. Before long, rain was pouring from the sky. Instead of causing people to retreat into buildings or back home, the rain seemed to make the protestors grow louder and more spirited. They set out to make sure the world could hear them, and that day not even Mother Nature could drown out their cries for justice.

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EVAN JAY

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5:16 P.M. OCT. 22, DOWNTOWN CONNECTOR: I followed the #ItsBiggerThanYou group, along with various other organizations and protesters, as they marched from Woodruff Park to the Downtown Connector, where they shut down traffic on the highway for more than an hour. This was a completely peaceful demonstration and done to speak out against the use of excessive force and general brutality by police. This particular shot shows how fewer than a dozen protesters were able to make a serious impact and effectively project their message. I have never been a part of a protest that was able to successfully shut down a major highway and not be arrested. To bear witness to such a feat has shown me how efficient you can be when you have passion and goals, and you plan to achieve those goals. You do not need an army in order to initiate change. You simply need a message and strong will.

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BRANDON ENGLISH

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9:44 P.M. NOV. 26, PEACHTREE STREET: The night before Thanksgiving, Ferguson demonstrations took place nationwide, including in Atlanta. By the time this shot was taken, my camera, which I use to shoot most things, had died so I was using a dinky point-and-shoot 35mm camera with some unfortunately low ISO film. The overpowering police presence in the photograph is readily apparent, from the clearly uniformed units in the foreground to other officers lining the background, along with a flock of blue lights. I love the fact that, if you look closely on the left side of the photo you can see one officer holding a video camera, which he has pointed away from the clear confrontation unfolding in front of him. The men shown here who were about to be detained belonged to one of the night's marches that followed a path along Peachtree Street. From my perspective, the conflict started when one of them stepped into the street as the police asked all protesters to disperse, with the other man subsequently jumping in to defend his friend from the group of officers. Regardless of whether the man was in the wrong to step into the street, I felt the response was excessive as the sidewalk was dense and he, like many others, may have been mistakenly or accidentally shoved into the street.

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JOEFF DAVIS

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5:30 P.M. OCT. 1, 255 COURTLAND ST. N.E.: Sometimes a great photo can run upside down as well as right side up. For our 2014 food issue, I spent a week inside some of Atlanta's finest old-school upscale restaurants. Though anybody with a cell phone could get an interesting photo at Trader Vic's, I still love this picture for its perspective: the turtle, an ancient symbol, crawling across the wall, with the ceiling looking like the floor. It looks like a four-dimensional work by M.C. Escher. I shot it at the wrong color-balance setting while I stood on a chair because it felt right.

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MAX BLAU

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8:26 P.M. JULY 27, EPWORTH AVENUE: On most Sundays, ATV and dirt-bike riders cruise around Atlanta in large packs. They're part of a collective known as #ATLBikeLife, which rides along residential streets and main thoroughfares, and through public parks. Along the way, they rev their engines, pop wheelies, and perform acrobatic stunts.

I tagged along with several #ATLBikeLife riders one afternoon in late July. They had been waiting all afternoon to ride. The ride was almost canceled. At the last minute, they got the call that #BikeLifeSunday was back on in southwest Atlanta. Thirty minutes later, several dozen riders were performing tricks outside Rev. James Orange Park at Oakland City. Rock, one of three riders I was mainly following, is shown performing a stunt in this photo.

I knew my time to shoot them was limited. They were heading out on the road shortly. It was also about to get dark. I kept shooting for about 30 minutes, trying to capture the right combination of gravity-defying tricks and rider expressions. Some were trying too hard and others were goofing off. Then there was Rock.

There are two reasons I love this photo. There's the obvious part that captures the 20-year-old Decatur resident as he holds a wheelie while headed downhill. But when you look at the photo closely, you can see Rock's serene facial expression.

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KATE LAMB

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8 P.M. OCT. 2, 241 20TH ST. N.W.: Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna performance came to Atlantic Station. I covered the troupe's dress rehearsal. I like this photograph because it shows a quiet moment. The performer is still performing, but it looked otherwise for this one quick moment, when she dove into a bowl of water. What I love about this image is her expression. Her eyes are closed, and she looks like she doesn't have any tension anywhere. For a second, she gets to look inward, to herself. All of her hard work for years has led up to this performance, and for a moment she gets to close her eyes and be still.

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JAMES CAMP

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1:09 P.M. JUNE 6, 3455 PEACHTREE ROAD N.E.: My friend and CL colleague James Camp died this year. He was a brilliant photographer and filled CL with mind-blowing food photographs year after year. Looking at his pictures week after week, I often wondered how he did it. His photos were variously sexual and erotic, disgusting and confusing, abstract and insane, dark and scary, bright and playful. I like how James chose to shoot this image of langoustine crudo at St. Cecilia to highlight the markings on the table. James' photographs were unlike anyone else's. He was a style and a genre unto himself. His was the greatest food photography I ever saw. More importantly, James was a great human. He is deeply missed. — JD
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