2015 marked a year of increased connectivity across the globe. There was no shortage of suffering and tragedy – war and terror claimed lives in every corner of the world, while natural disasters tore apart families and communities. But within this, the world reached beyond borders, races, religions, and party lines to become even more connected, demanding bigger hearts and minds to move humanity forward.

Events driven by acceptance and progress highlighted the humanity in us all: gay marriage was legalized in the US and Ireland, landmark climate change deals were made to keep the planet safe, and minorities pushed back against the laws that restrain them, challenging governments to do better; artists and entertainers welcomed us into their art, providing momentary escapes from reality; athletes shared with us their victories and losses, allowing us to be part of a community; science took us beyond the atmosphere to see the phenomena of space, while the nature on our own planet gave us reason to marvel at the life that thrives around us.

These 100 photos, gathered from Shutterstock’s editorial collection, document the struggles and triumphs of 2015, as well as the small moments of brightness that kept us going every day.

News

climate change march stock photo
Demonstrators march during a rally at the People’s Climate March in Rome, Italy, 29 Nov 2015. Activists marched in anticipation of the UN Climate Change Conference, where landmark international agreements were made to address global warming. Photo by Antonio Masiello/NurPhoto/REX Shutterstock.
hands up dont shoot protest
A protester does the iconic ‘Hands up don’t shoot’ pose while marching at a protest in Baltimore, April 29, 2015. Photo by ZUMA/REX Shutterstock.
white house rainbow
The White House is illuminated with rainbow lights following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. Washington D.C., June 26, 2015. Photo by REX Shutterstock.
refugees greece boat stock photo
Migrants approach the coast of the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, Greece, Nov. 30, 2015. The massive influx of migrants and refugees to Europe has created divisions among many EU nations. Photo by Halit Onur Sandal/NurPhoto/REX Shutterstock.
mourners paris terror attacks
Mourners light candles at Place de la Republique one week after the terror attacks in Paris, France. 20 Nov 2015. Photo by Charbonnier Nathanael/REX Shutterstock
terror attacks paris memorial
A man places a flower at a memorial outside Le Petit Cambodge – one of the sites of the terror attacks that claimed 130 lives in Paris, France.16 Nov 2015. Photo by James Gourley/REX Shutterstock

Fashion & Entertainment

Taylor Swift at the Billboard Music Awards, Las Vegas, May 17, 2015. Photo by REX Shutterstock.
Taylor Swift at the Billboard Music Awards, Las Vegas, May 17, 2015. Photo by REX Shutterstock.
viola davis award photo
Viola Davis at 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards, Los Angeles, Jan. 25, 2015. Photo by Stewart Cook/REX Shutterstock.
Adele performing at the 'Skavlan' TV Show filming, London, Dec. 3, 2015. Photo by REX Shutterstock.
Adele performing at the ‘Skavlan’ TV Show filming, London, Dec. 3, 2015. Photo by REX Shutterstock.
rihanna costume gala
Rihanna at Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating China: Through the Looking Glass, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 4, 2015. Photo by David Fisher/REX Shutterstock.
niall horan one direction concert
Niall Horan of One Direction in Concert in Gothenburg, Sweden. Jun 23, 2015. Photo by IBL/REX Shutterstock
kendall jenner dress
Kendall Jenner at amfAR’s 22nd Cinema Against AIDS Gala, Cannes, France, May 21, 2015. Photo by REX Shutterstock.

Sports

usa japan women football photo
The US Womens soccer team celebrates their third World Cup victory, this one against Japan. BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, Canada, July 5, 2015. Photo by Xinhua News Agency/REX Shutterstock.
robbie madison dirt bike wave
Robbie “Maddo” Maddison rides his dirt bike on the iconic waves of Tahiti in French Polynesia, May 6, 2015. Photo by Stephens/REX Shutterstock.
simone biles gymnastics photo
Simone Biles (USA) competes in the Women’s Balance Beam Final at the 46th World Artistic Gymnastics Championships at the SSE Hydro Arena, Scotland, Nov. 1, 2015. Photo by Xinhua News Agency/REX Shutterstock.

Around the World

rock launch photo
A SpaceX Falcon 9 blasts off launchPad 40, Florida, Jan. 10, 2015. Photo by ZUMA/REX Shutterstock.
gaza boy spider man
Boy dressed as Spider-Man shows off his gymnastic skills amid ruins in Gaza, Palestinian Territories, Sept. 13. 2015. Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/REX Shutterstock
squirrel stretching sky
A photographer captures a squirrel joyously reaching towards the sky, Alberta, Canada, Jun. 6, 2015. Photo by Ian Duncan/REX Shutterstock
thunder cloud firework
The moment a firework exploded next to a thunder cloud in Ibiza, during the Assumption of Mary bank holiday celebrations. August 16, 2015. Photo by Justin Gardner/REX Shutterstock.