A horse being cooled off after racing in 90-degree heat at Arlington Park in July. Photograph by Bill Guerriero, the winner of our Facebook photo contest. Credit: Bill Guerriero

The world is full of noises. Even as we seek silence, it’s hard to quiet the chatter in our brains—the remnants of a Twitter feed may invade our mental landscape; a shadow of a blue Facebook box pops into a subconscious mental slide show as we finally submit to sleep. We talk so much these days, even when it’s not out loud. We debate the big issues and the small—we passionately expound on gun violence one day and Instagram’s terms of service agreement the next. We discuss furthering the Occupy movement; we show each other our brunches. Through social media, we have become so tight-knit, so technologically close, yet every moment experienced there—our words and ideas—have become that much more fleeting.

It’s become hard to keep up with the world that we, ourselves, have created. That’s exactly why this year’s Photo Issue has taken on new meaning for me.

A photo makes no sound; it writes no words. It hovers in quiet stillness. Perhaps most importantly, a photo makes that moment stay.

The year 2012 saw big moments: the Arab Spring and Pussy Riot, Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook. We held our breath for Obama to get reelected and some states got the right to exhale a celebratory bong hit.

But there were also tiny moments from our daily lives—and those didn’t go unnoticed. As I sifted through the hundreds of submissions for our sixth annual Photo Issue, I got to inhabit those moments. Mark Hetzel captured life and death in the same moment at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Paul Moody exposed the quiet solitude of a man sitting alone at Millennium Park on a chilly April day. Ashley Marchi offered a shred of hope for times when we feel like the whole world has gone mad.

The following pages pay homage to the tiny moments that our readers found artful, soulful, ephemeral, or, for whatever reason, worthy of preserving. Enjoy the silence. Andrea Bauer

Readers chimed in and voted for their favorite submissions to our Photo Issue contest on Facebook and Instagram. Congratulations to our winners: Bill Guerriero (Facebook) and Carey Lundin (Instagram).

I’ll Fly Away. Milwaukee and Halsted, September. By Carey Lundin, 51, producer of the documentary Jens Jensen Harmonious World, Hamlin Park.Credit: Carey Lundin
Untitled. Glenwood, November. By Andrew Mine, 51, attorney, Rogers ParkCredit: Andrew Mine
Untitled. Bissel Street, Lincoln Park, May. By Ashley Marchi, 22, employee at Monterey International, Lincoln ParkCredit: Ashley Marchi
What’s A Dog To Do? Montrose Beach, March. By Bill Guerriero, 43, copy editor, AndersonvilleCredit: Bill Guerriero
Hey Bulldog. Montrose Dog Beach, July. By Bill Guerriero, 43, copy editor, AndersonvilleCredit: Bill Guerriero
Identique. Sheridan Road and Glenlake Avenue, Rogers Park, October. By Carrie AllenCredit: Carrie Allen
Johnnie’s Beef. Summer. By Edward Anderson, 34, musician, Logan SquareCredit: Edward Anderson
Rosie’s on Elston. Rosicrucian Office on Elston Avenue, Summer. By Edward Anderson, 34, musician, Logan SquareCredit: Edward Anderson
Garbage. The Metro, August. By Ellie PrittsCredit: Ellie Pritts
Tame Impala. The Metro, November. By Ellie PrittsCredit: Ellie Pritts
Credit: Gabriel X. Michael
Bug and Flowers. Waveland and the lakefront, July. By Gene TennerCredit: Gene Tenner
Industrial Strippers. Hammond, July. Heather A. Phillips, 32, research manager, RavenswoodCredit: Heather Philips
East Chicago, Indiana. East Chicago, July. By Heather A. Phillips, 32, research manager, RavenswoodCredit: Heather Philips
Waukegan, Illinois. Waukegan, March. By Heather A. Phillips, 32, research manager, RavenswoodCredit: Heather Philips
Something Good: Hammond Indiana. Hammond, July. By Heather A. Phillips, 32, research manager, RavenswoodCredit: Heather Philips
Lake Michigan on October 30, 2012. Lake Michigan, October. By Iwona Biedermann, 52, photographer, Wicker ParkCredit: Iwona Biedermann
Along Milwaukee Avenue. Milwaukee Avenue, October. By Iwona Biedermann, 52, photographer, Wicker ParkCredit: Iwona Biedermann
Untitled. Multiple Chicago locations, July. By Jacob Watts, photographer and freelance retoucher, Logan SquareCredit: Jacob Watts
Untitled. Multiple Chicago locations, August. By Jacob Watts, photographer and freelance retoucher, Logan SquareCredit: Jacob Watts
Untitled. Multiple Chicago locations, January. By Jacob Watts, photographer and freelance retoucher, Logan SquareCredit: Jacob Watts
Untitled. Multiple Chicago locations, January. By Jacob Watts, photographer and freelance retoucher, Logan SquareCredit: Jacob Watts
Untitled. Multiple Chicago locations, November. By Jacob Watts, photographer and freelance retoucher, Logan SquareCredit: Jacob Watts
Untitled. Chicago River, March. By Jeremiah Loren, banker, EdgewaterCredit: Jeremiah Loren
Untitled. Near Ping Tom Park, Chinatown, September. By John CaseCredit: John Case
Vacant Houses. Roosevelt and Rockwell, February. By Katherine Hodges, 36, Humboldt Park.Credit: Katherine Hodges
The Now-Demolished Tower of Valspar. North of Ashland Orange Line, August. By Katherine Hodges, 36, Humboldt Park.Credit: Katherine Hodges
Untitled. Garfield Park Conservatory, Spring. By Mark Hetzel, 35, educator and musician, Buena ParkCredit: Mark Hetzel
Untitled. Across the street from Buckingham Fountain, May. By Matthew Duff, 31, private dancer, Logan SquareCredit: Matthew Duff
Untitled. Division Blue Line stop, November. By Michael RitchieCredit: Michael Ritchie
Untitled. Chase Tower, November. By Michael SalisburyCredit: Michael Salisbury
Street Performer. Adams and Wabash, November. By Michael SalisburyCredit: Michael Salisbury
Relieves Fatigue. 5434 Clark St., October. By Neil Arsenty, 33, web content specialist and comedian, Ukrainian VillageCredit: Neil Arsenty
Untitled. Didier Farms, Buffalo Grove, October. By Patrick Brady, 29, buyer, BucktownCredit: Patrick Brady
Untitled. November. By Patrick Brady, 29, buyer, BucktownCredit: Patrick Brady
Untitled. Wrigley Field, October. By Patrick Brady, 29, buyer, BucktownCredit: Patrick Brady
Nato Protest. Grant Park, May. By Paul BoucherCredit: Paul Boucher
Michael Brantley Robs Alex Rios of a Home Run. US Cellular Field, May. By Paul BoucherCredit: Paul Boucher
Dewayne Wise Lays Down Bunt Single. US Cellular Field, August. By Paul BoucherCredit: Paul Boucher
Millenium. Millenium Park, April. By Paul Moody, 25, student, LakeviewCredit: Paul Moody
Sunset at Diversey. Diversey Harbor, June. By Paul Moody, 25, student, LakeviewCredit: Paul Moody
Waves. Museum Campus, September. By Paul Moody, 25, student, LakeviewCredit: Paul Moody
Untitled. 600 West Chicago bridge, June. By Rogelio Gomez, 35, student (art director/Columbia) and server, Lincoln SquareCredit: Rogelio Gamez
Music Exchange Mirrors. 3350 N. Lincoln Ave., November. By Ryan O’Connor, 33, wine director, North CenterCredit: Ryan O’Connor
Sizing Them Up. Downtown, May. By Matthew HardmanCredit: Matthew Hardman
Ephemeral. West Town alleys, July. By Zach Gingold, 28, media analyst, Wicker ParkCredit: Zach Gingold