Year in Photos 2021

Our Annual Year in Photographic Review

Year in Photos 2021

Our Annual Year in Photographic Review

By Indy Staff | December 30, 2021

Some years are hard to keep straight. 

Things move amazingly fast and glacially slow all at the same time. The laws of physics and memory are turned on their heads.

For those of us who experienced 2021 as a big blur streaking across time, the Independent’s annual Year in Photos reminds us what actually transpired right here in our slice of the rock.

As it turns out, a lot happened. We beat back the worst of the pandemic, yet we keep fighting. 

The Alisal Fire burned up about 17,000 acres and took out a dozen homes. 

The NAACP’s Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt made vaccines a priority for people of color. 

The City of Santa Barbara named Emma Trelles, the daughter of Cuban immigrants and author of Tropicalia, its poet laureate.

The Wheelie Kids cemented their place as early adopters of an alternative sport and a force to be reckoned with on State Street.

The legendary Cunningham family gathered for a ceremony that named Santa Barbara High’s new track in their honor.

SBIFF head honcho Roger Durling made the film fest happen and published a new book.

And orchid grower Joe Ambriz watched his store flower in Carpinteria.

There was a lot more, too, and the images of those happenings were captured by photographers Daniel Dreifuss, Erick Madrid, Jean Ziesenhenne, Max Abrams, and others. Without these photojournalists, the Independent would have been lost. 

A big thanks also goes out to Paul Wellman, the Independent’s former photo editor, whose deep reservoir of file images taken from years past allowed us to fill in key gaps.

Here’s to 2022. 

Stay safe out there.


Wildfire season was less dramatic in 2021 than in years past, but the Alisal Fire caused considerable consternation for a longer time than expected while burning up about 17,000 acres and a dozen homes along the Gaviota Coast in October.  | Photos by Erick Madrid.


The ongoing fight against COVID was waged via vaccines this past year. In January, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department’s senior staff nurse Nancy Sparkman gave a Moderna shot to Rodger Pynn. | Photo by Daniel Dreifuss


Santa Barbara’s Poet Laureate Emma Trelles was the subject of a June cover story that detailed her rise as the daughter of Cuban immigrants in Miami to the publishing of her award-winning 2010 book Tropicalia. | Photo by Erick Madrid


Santa Barbara’s “Wheelie Kids” were featured on the cover in August, revealing how this new generation of bicycle lovers is tricking their way up and down State Street. | Photo by Ryan P. Cruz


Saving the historic murals at Ortega Park made big headlines in 2021, but Elysia Guillén, Maritza Flores, Leah Ortega, and Daniela Aguirre are posing in front of “Campesinos” to promote their Mujeres Makers Market pop-up series. | Photo by Jean Ziesenhenne


Our April cover story about Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt showed how much this president of the regional NAACP is doing to make vaccines a priority for people of color. | Photo by Erick Madrid


An October lighting storm turned even amateur photogs into social media superstars. But this shot was by a pro: Mike Eliason, who also published his photography collection, Santa Barbara and Beyond, this year. | Photo by Mike Eliason


Our February cover story on purple urchins explored how fishermen are working with The Cultured Abalone Farm to fatten the out-of-control species into edible treats. To do so, hatchery director Devin Spencer feeds the shellfish fresh kelp. | Photos by Daniel Dreifuss


The legendary Cunningham family — including, from left, Randall, Samahndi, Bruce, and Anthony — gathered for a July ceremony that named Santa Barbara High School’s new track in their honor. | Photos by Jean Ziesenhenne


From the waters off of Leadbetter Beach, kiteboarder Evan Heffernan is setting his sail toward the 2024 Olympics in Paris. | Photos by Max Abrams


People of all ages and ability levels sought calmness in 2021, and some turned to the YMCA’s chair yoga program for their tranquility. | Photo by Erick Madrid


Carpinteria High School’s Vincent Rinaldi, whom we crowned “The Carpinteria Comet,” set lots of records this year but came in second during the 100-meter dash at the CIF championships in June. | Photo by Erick Madrid


Dayna Jordan keeps many people fit by leading aqua-aerobics at the Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club. | Photo by Erick Madrid


Though they’re in their eighties, Buck Paulson (hitting) and Tom Woodring didn’t let COVID stop them from their weekly baseball competition at Elings Park this March. | Photo by Max Abrams


In June, after two years of being stuck in Mexico due to shifting federal policies, Juana Flores reunited with her family at Oak Park, including her husband, Andrés Flores, and two of her grandchildren. She was happy to get back to her home in Goleta, where she’d lived for 30 years. “I couldn’t believe that I could be with my family again, to see my house again,” she said. | Photos by Erick Madrid


Orchid grower Joe Ambriz used to sell his plants at shows, but the pandemic made his retail thrive at his Ambriz Kingdom of Plants in Carpinteria. | Photo by Erick Madrid.


SBIFF head honcho Roger Durling made the film fest happen in 2021 — albeit virtually and with drive-in screens near Leadbetter Beach — and also published Cinema in Flux: A Year of Connecting Through Film. | Portrait by Erick Madrid. Drive-in photo by Jean Ziesenhenne


In March, as coronavirus cases continued to dominate attention, photographer Daniel Dreifuss was granted three hours of front-row access to Marian Regional Medical Center’s COVID ICU wing. As the Santa Maria hospital’s doctors and nurses helped patients, Dreifuss felt “hope but also discouragement at the same time, because the COVID patients kept coming and the staff were just exhausted.” Above, nurse Lois McKinley holds the hand of one of her patients. Below, nurse Bethany London updates patient information. | Photos by Daniel Dreifuss



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