Commentary

2021: The year in photos

Gov. Bill Lee at a plant dedication Humboldt, Tennessee in March, pictured with plant workers. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Gov. Bill Lee at the dedication of a Tyson chicken plant in Humboldt, Tennessee in March, pictured with plant workers. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Great writing and excellent photojournalism go together like peas and carrots, and the Tennessee Lookout has the good fortune to work with excellent writers and photographers.

2021 was a lesser sibling to 2020, our launch year. If the latter gave us the opportunity to cover Black Lives Matter protests, COVID test sites and bombings, the former allowed us to cover not just one legislative session but also three special sessions, the deployment of COVID vaccines across the state and a late year catastrophic tornado.

Our in-house photojournalist extraordinaire John Partipilo gave us the faces of the year, from pensive state legislators grappling with legal issues to joyous Black legislators celebrating the removal of a bust of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee Capital. His work was as diverse as his  sensitively photographed families with special needs children, some trying to access assistance with medical care and others educational opportunities and a truly amazing gallery of Freedom Riders.

In Memphis, Karen Pulfer-Focht caught a relaxed Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer shortly after Sawyer, a frequent target of racist harassment, announced she won’t seek reelection. Pulfer-Focht also documented Memphis first responders getting their COVID vaccines and smoke billowing from a Valero plant as we covered Valero’s bid to run a pipeline through a historic Black community.

While there are many more excellent images of the year, we’ve chosen a small selection of our favorites that we feel represent the year that was in politics, civil rights and COVID-19.

Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, looks pensive at his desk in the Tennessee House of Representatives in Jan. 2021. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, looks pensive at his desk in the Tennessee House of Representatives in Jan. 2021.

John Partipilo took a series of photos of former Speaker of the House Glen Casada shortly after the legislature convened in January, which was also just days after the FBI raided Casada’s home and office as part of an investigation into a shadowy consulting firm called Phoenix Solutions. Casada announced in November he will not run for reelection in 2022 after two decades in office.

Tami Sawyer, Memphis, Tennessee. Tami Sawyer is a Shelby County Commissioner and Chair of Education in Memphis, TN. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht)
Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht)

Caden Gentry, age 6, looks up at "March to Freedom" in Franklin. (John Partipilo)
Caden Gentry, age 6, looks up at “March to Freedom” in Franklin. (John Partipilo)

Hundreds gathered in Franklin, the site of a brutal Civil War battle, for the Oct. 23 unveiling of “March to Freedom.” The statue, which sits in front of the antebellum courthouse directly across from a Confederate monument, pays homage to the U.S. Colored Troops, many of whom were from Middle Tennessee.

Driver Ashley Graham celebrates getting vaccinated by shooting Silly String at Courtney Easter, in passenger seat, and Tatiana Walton, in the back seat. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Driver Ashley Graham celebrates getting vaccinated by shooting Silly String at Courtney Easter, in passenger seat, and Tatiana Walton, in the back seat. (Photo: John Partipilo)

John Partipilo shot one of the most joyous photos of the year during a mass vaccination clinic at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium on March 20. Sponsored by the Nashville Public Health Department shortly after the COVID vaccine became available to all adults, 10,000 Tennesseans turned out out for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

 

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Holly McCall
Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. She has served as political analyst for WZTV Fox 17 and provided communications consulting for political campaigns at all levels, from city council to presidential. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.

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John Partipilo
John Partipilo

Working as a photojournalist for 40 years, Partipilo has won awards such as NPPA Best of Photojournalism and nominated for two Pulitzers. His photography has also been featured in national and international publications. Most importantly Partipilo’s work is about people — people in their different environments and people in their different stages of life. That’s the heart of his work. To him people are so important, because they all have a unique story.

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Karen Pulfer Focht
Karen Pulfer Focht

Karen Pulfer Focht is a freelance photojournalist in Memphis, Tennessee who has won numerous awards in her career, many for in-depth projects about children and families. Her work is regularly published in newspapers and magazines around the world.

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