Commentary

The year in photos: Part Two

Two Amish men continue their routine of delivering milk, while an American flag flies at half staff. (Photo: John Partipilo)

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.

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. (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.

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.

Saddler Funeral Home in Lebanon, where Reid Van Ness stored bodies for months at a time. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Saddler Funeral Home in Lebanon, where Reid Van Ness stored bodies for months at a time. Photo by John Partipilo.

 

 

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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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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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