TIME’s Photo Department faces a daunting task every year as it shuffles through millions of powerful photographs to determine the best and most dynamic photographer on the wires. This year, they honor Italian-born Marco Longari, the Jerusalem-based chief photographer for Agence-France Presse (AFP) who in just the last few months covered the revolution in Syria, the Israeli shelling of Gaza, and the persistent protests in Cairo.
His photographic tour through the Middle East took viewers on a journey of shifting political landscapes. But he focused on the human aspect of these turbulent times and managed to tell important stories. As the TIME Photo Department so aptly writes, “Longari made picture after picture this year that mattered.”
In an interview with TIME, Longari shared what he calls “the most humbling lesson in compassion” he’s experienced in his entire career. He arrived at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City just after an Israeli air strike. Waiting to photograph the ensuing chaos, he phoned his family currently staying in Jerusalem but the line was cut. He managed to compose himself but the unease was still there. That’s when he felt the burden that Palestinians face on a daily basis.
Here are a small selection of his photographs. The rest can be found here.