Two Amish men deliver meals while an American flag flies at half staff. (Photo: John Partipilo)
In our second gallery of photographs that defined 2020, we share works by photojournalists John Partipilo and Karen Pulfer Focht on topics including the environment, families with special needs children and immigration issues. While 2021 wasn’t characterized by the same type of demonstrations that marked 2020, the year nonetheless had its share of demonstrations by immigrants — including Afghan residents — rallying for the U.S. government to both protect Afghans who helped the U.S. military during a two-decade long war that ended and to press Afghanistan on human rights issues.
The Lookout stepped up our coverage of environmental issues, as Black Memphians fought to keep an oil pipeline out of their neighborhoods and in Middle Tennesseans, hikers, campers and hunters pushed back on a state plan to sell off a wooded recreational area to create a quail habitat. And devastating tornadoes in West Tennessee and Kentucky, just over the state line, took Partipilo to two of the hardest hit towns to talk with residents and document the damage.
The Tennessee environment
Andrew Byrd at the farm he owns with his wife, Marianne Menefee Byrd, on historic Holly Tree Gap in Williamson County. The Milcrofton Utility District wants to blast a 40-foot cliff into Byrd's property for construction of water tanks. The property includes a portion of the Middle Road, which was built in 1799 as a road for early settlers. Photo: John Partipilo)
Monica Blankenship on her back patio, with scores of chicken barns rising in the background. A plan by Tyson Foods to build a massive chicken farming operation behind Blankenship’s home is overwhelming nearby residents in unincorporated Madison County with the stench. Senior Reporter Anita Wadhwani and photojournalist John Partipilo spent days in West Tennessee talking with local farmers, contract chicken farmers for Tyson and elected officials.
Tennessee families in need
John Partipilo photographed Drama Bryant, 38, with her brother Jay, 32, on the front porch of their family’s home in Greene County. She is his primary caretaker. Bryant’s entire life has revolved around caring for Jay, who requires 24/7 assistance as a result of congenital conditions that leave him unable to eat, bathe, go the bathroom, speak or walk unassisted. The family has struggled to get assistance from the state they qualify for.
One of, if not the, strangest story the Lookout covered in 2021 was the saga of rogue funeral director Reid Van Ness. Van Ness lost his funeral director license in late 2020 but continued to operate, primarily offering his services to immigrant families in Middle Tennessee with promises to send the remains of their loved ones back to their home countries. In many cases, the bodies languished in funeral homes for months and in some cases, were never sent home for burial. Several families have filed lawsuits against Van Ness and the Mexican Consulate warned families against working with him. Dulce Torres Guzman and Anita Wadhwani began covering the story in February and John Partipilo handled photography.
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