The year in photos 2021 – The Santa Barbara Independent

The year in photos 2021

Our annual year in the photographic magazine

By Indy Staff | December 30, 2021

Some years are difficult to follow.

Things move both incredibly fast and frigidly slowly. The laws of physics and memory are upset.

For those of us who have experienced 2021 as a blur in time, the IndependentThe Year in Photos annual reminds us of what really happened here in our Slice of the Rock.

It turns out that a lot has happened. We have fought off the worst of the pandemic, but we continue to fight.

The Alisal fire burned approximately 17,000 acres and destroyed a dozen homes.

Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt of the NAACP has made vaccines a priority for people of color.

The city of Santa Barbara named Emma Trelles, daughter of Cuban immigrants and author of Tropicalia, his poet laureate.

The Wheelie Kids established themselves among the first to embrace alternative sport and a force to be reckoned with on State Street.

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

SBIFF big boss Roger Durling organized the film festival and published a new book.

And orchid grower Joe Ambriz has seen his store in Carpinteria flourish.

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

Many thanks also to Paul Wellman, the IndependentThe old photo editor of, whose deep reservoir of file images taken from years past allowed us to fill in key gaps.

That’s until 2022.

Stay safe there.


The wildfire season was less dramatic in 2021 than in years past, but the Alisal fire caused considerable dismay for longer than expected while burning about 17,000 acres and a dozen homes along the coast of Gaviota in October. | Photos of Erick Madrid.


The ongoing fight against COVID has been waged through vaccines this year. In January, Nancy Sparkman, senior nurse with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, gave Rodger Pynn an injection of Moderna. | Photo by Daniel Dreifuss


Santa Barbara poet laureate Emma Trelles was featured on a cover in June that detailed her rise as the daughter of Cuban immigrants to Miami until the publication of her 2010 award-winning book Tropicalia. | Photo of Erick Madrid


Santa Barbara’s “Wheelie Kids” made the cover of August, revealing how this new generation of bike enthusiasts are making their way down State Street. | Photo by Ryan P. Cruz


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


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


A light storm in October turned even amateur photographers into social media superstars. But this shot was taken by a pro: Mike Eliason, who also posted his collection of photographs, Santa Barbara and beyond, This year. | Photo by Mike Eliason


Our February cover story on Purple Sea Urchins explored how fishermen are working with The Cultured Abalone Farm to fatten out the uncontrollable species into edible treats. To do this, hatchery manager Devin Spencer feeds the shells with fresh kelp. | Photos of Daniel Dreifuss


The legendary Cunningham family – comprising, from left to right, Randall, Samahndi, Bruce and Anthony – gathered for a ceremony in July that named the new Santa Barbara High School track in their honor. | Photos of Jean Ziesenhenne


From the waters off Leadbetter Beach, kitesurfing Evan Heffernan is heading for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. | Max Abrams Pictures


People of all ages and skill levels sought calm in 2021, and some turned to the YMCA’s chair yoga program for their peace of mind. | Photo of Erick Madrid


Vincent Rinaldi of Carpinteria High School, whom we crowned ‘The Comet of Carpinteria’, set many records this year but finished second in the 100 meters at the CIF Championships in June. | Photo of Erick Madrid


Dayna Jordan keeps a lot of people in shape by leading water aerobics at Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club. | Photo of Erick Madrid


Despite being in their 80s, Buck Paulson (hitting) and Tom Woodring didn’t let COVID stop them from their weekly baseball competition at Elings Park in March. | Photo by Max Abrams


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


Orchid grower Joe Ambriz used to sell his plants at shows, but the pandemic has made his retail business flourish in his Ambriz plant kingdom in Carpinteria. | Photo of Erick Madrid.


SBIFF big boss Roger Durling hosted the film festival in 2021 – albeit virtually and with drive-in screens near Leadbetter Beach – and also posted Cinema in Flux: A year of connection 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 the COVID ICU wing at Marian Regional Medical Center. As doctors and nurses at Santa Maria Hospital helped patients, Dreifuss felt “both hope but also despondency as COVID patients kept coming in 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 of Daniel Dreifuss


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