In the Moment: Photographs From 2016

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There is no easy way to sum up the rich smorgasbord that was culture in 2016. But — to stay with a culinary metaphor — this sampling of our arts photography offers a taste. These images take us behind the scenes to watch the Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo use the actress Danielle Brooks as his canvas. They make us privy to private moments, like those of a photo-averse Howard Stern in his studio; of Metropolitan Opera musicians taking a backstage poker break; of Taylor Mac applying makeup in front of his dressing room mirror. And they bring us closer to celebrities like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Judith Light and Tony Bennett.

Politics grabbed our attention in 2016, but the arts fed our imaginations, lifted our spirits, led us to new territory. We can laugh with Kate McKinnon as she shovels Chinese noodles into her mouth; lie down with lions with the big-cat trainer at Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus; leap with dancers like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Misty Copeland; or groove to the rapping of Joey Badass. In a November episode of his “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver looked back at 2016 as a year worth erasing. But these photographs suggest there were moments worth remembering, attesting perhaps to the abiding optimism that resides in artistic endeavor. As Lil Wayne summed up in an October interview with The Times: “If there’s a wall at the end of the tunnel, I’m gonna shoot that [expletive] down. And there’s gonna be light behind that wall.”

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The actress Kate McKinnon grabbing some lunch in August.

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Jesse Dittmar for The New York Times

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Misty Copeland and fellow members of American Ballet Theater in “Firebird” in May.

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Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

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Lil Wayne doing a book signing for his “Gone Til November” at the Strand in November.

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Amy Lombard for The New York Times

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Left, Picasso’s “Portrait of Gertrude Stein” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Damon Winter/The New York Times

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Laolu Senbanjo creating a body painting on the actress Danielle Brooks in his Brooklyn studio in November.

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Sasha Arutyunova for The New York Times

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Howard Stern in July.

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Chad Batka for The New York Times

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“Swan Lake” choreography by Dada Masilo at the Joyce Theater in February.

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Julieta Cervantes for The New York Times

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The indelible sheep scene from Louis Andriessen’s “De Materie” at the Park Avenue Armory in March.

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Robert Altman for The New York Times

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills in April.

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Elizabeth Weinberg for The New York Times

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Orchestra musicians playing poker during intermission in March at the Metropolitan Opera.

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James Estrin/The New York Times

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One of Doug Aitken’s “pavilions,” underwater art installations off Catalina Island in California in November.

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Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times

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The actress Judith Light, who appeared in Neil LaBute’s “All the Ways to Say I Love You.”

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Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times

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Alexander Lacey and Masai the lion at a Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus stop in Fresno, Calif., in July.

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Jason Henry for The New York Times

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Aisholpan Nurgaiv, an eagle trainer from Kazakhstan who is the star of the documentary “Eagle Huntress,” directed by Otto Bell.

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Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

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The rapper Joey Badass at Terminal 5 in January.

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Chad Batka for The New York Times

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The actor Taylor Mac backstage at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn in August.

Credit
Jesse Dittmar for The New York Times

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Tony Bennett this month at his 90th-birthday celebration, held at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.

Credit
Amy Lombard for The New York Times

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