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The photos that helped us tell the stories of 2021


Vaccinations, and later boosters, got underway in earnest in 2021. Still, the COVID pandemic — and so much of the uncertainty and angst that has come with it — continued. Many Massachusetts residents attempted to shift their social, professional and economic lives back toward a new normal that, as the year closes out and concerns swirl around a new variant, still feels elusive.

Of course, many other stories stood out in 2021. Boston held a historic election, voting in its first-ever woman mayor and Asian American mayor. City and public health leaders debated what to do about Boston's deepening homelessness and addiction crisis as a tent encampment grew. Bostonians watched, some weeping in relief, as the Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd was convicted. WBUR explored how the budding offshore wind industry would shape our world. Runners completed an autumn Boston Marathon for the first time ever.

We take a look back at these critical moments, and the photographs that helped us tell the stories:

January

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Jan. 5 | Jessica Capobianco performs a COVID test on 14-year-old Brady Martel at the Bromfield School in Harvard, Mass. As the state planned to roll out weekly testing to public school students and staff, Harvard Public Schools took it upon themselves to raise funds to launch a COVID-19 surveillance testing program.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Jan. 15 | Registered nurse Samantha Schuko prepares to vaccinate Foxborough police officer Brendan Fayles with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Gillette Stadium vaccination site. About 100 officers, firefighters and EMTs received their first dose of the vaccine in a clubhouse overlooking the nearly 66,000-seat stadium.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Jan. 21 | Hundreds gathered in Cushing Square in Belmont to hold a vigil in memory of Henry Tapia. The 34 year old was killed after another man, who called him a racial slur in a traffic altercation, drove over his body.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Jan. 28 | Courtney Morton holds her 3-year-old son, Elias, during the funeral service for her partner, Henry Tapia.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Jan. 30 | Juliane Manitz carries a "No Eastie Substation" sign at a protest against the proposed East Boston electrical substation. The proposed site is the fenced, snow-covered area behind her.

February

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Feb. 2 | Charles Mastromauro looks up at the waves crashing along a seawall in Revere during high tide just after a nor'easter passed through the area.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Feb. 2 | Sydney Mark wheels a jasmine tree through the contemporary wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Horticulturists safely transported more than 300 botanicals from their greenhouse in Hingham to the museum's historic Boston courtyard ahead of its public reopening.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Feb. 10 | Children from the Mass Audubon Boston Nature Center's preschool program play in the snow before their parents pick them up. The organization found itself reckoning with its namesake's ties to slavery as conversations around racial justice continued across the nation.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Feb. 12 | A liquor bottle takes a direct hit as Danielle Blanchard smashes her way through her "Smash It 2" appointment. Smash rooms like this one in Worcester welcomed people to pay to let out their frustrations — many of them tied to the ongoing pandemic — in a safe environment.

March

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

March 10 | Nurse Jen Cox administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Natasha White at the Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Dorchester.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

March 11 | Artist Marla McLeod works on a piece featuring her niece at her studio in New Haven, Connecticut.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

March 22 | A student in Carmen Rios’ kindergarten class raises her hand during an English lesson at Barbieri Elementary School in Framingham. Emergency teaching licenses were created to help keep classrooms staffed during the pandemic. But the program also appeared to open up opportunities for more people of color to join the state's teaching ranks.

April

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

April 1 | Shira watches her nonbinary child, Hallel, do a backward roll in the living room. Three years ago, Hallel said to their parents, "I'm a boy-girl." Their parents explained their efforts to protect and empower their child.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

April 6 | A technician walks with a solar panel across a rooftop at Boston Building Resources in Jamaica Plain.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

April 15 | Boston Marathon bombing survivors Joselyn Perez, (right), her mother, Sara Valverde Perez, and Laurie Scher, (center), embrace with Joselyn Perez's brother, Yoelin Perez, (left in the red) and her aunt, Susana Hunter, during a moment of silence at the site of the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street to mark the eighth anniversary of the bombings.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

April 20 | Tears stream from the eyes of an overjoyed Al Action, as he speaks in Nubian Square about the guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

April 22 | A court officer walks down the hallway to retrieve alternate jury members waiting in the “Venetian” function room for a trial case at Lombardo’s in Randolph.

May

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

May 8 | Two swan boats pass each other in the Boston Public Garden pond on the day the ride reopened for the first time since 2019. Pandemic safety restrictions prevented the iconic boats from gliding across the pond in 2020.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

May 12 | Students in Crystal Alcala's second grade class look at what they've dug up in the garden at the Greenwood School in Dorchester. Many parents and teachers came to see outdoor spaces as ideal opportunities for creative and hands-on learning after a year of virtual and isolated schooling.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

May 26 | Sam Mitchell, a MIT freshman studying computer science and math, rides a hydrofoil along the Charles River. He hopes to start a hydrofoil club at MIT.

June

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

June 8 | During Boston's first heat wave of the year, a 7-year-old runs beneath the arches of cascading water at the Christian Science Plaza fountain.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

June 10 | A worker rappels down the side of the new Mass Mutual building under construction at Boston's Seaport.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

June 14 | Firelei Báez walks with a brush and paint can in hand as she works on her largest sculptural installation to date — a reimagined version of the archeological ruins of the Sans-Souci Palace in Haiti installed at the ICA Watershed in East Boston.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

June 16 | Arlen gets in some practice on his electric guitar. The young musician is the inspiration for "The Boy Who Wanted to Rock," written by his father, David Weiser.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

June 16 | Workers prepare to raise the red, black and green Pan-African flag in front of the State House to commemorate the first Juneteenth holiday recognized by the state.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

June 16 | A group of young school children with their teachers pass the "Roxbury Love Story" mural by Rob "Problak" Gibbs, depicting Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King speaking to each other through corded telephones on either side of the archway. The mural is on an exterior wall of an apartment building in the former location of the Twelfth Baptist Church, where King served as assistant minister from 1951 to 1954.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

June 24 | Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey joins visitors wading through the Frog Pond at its summer opener.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

June 29 | A Waltham police officer asks protesters to leave the premises to avoid arrest for trespassing on private property at the Enbridge office in Waltham. The demonstrators accused Enbridge of "committing crimes against humanity" and perpetrating climate change by constructing and operating controversial fossil fuel projects like the Weymouth Compressor and the Line 3 oil pipeline.

July

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

July 19 | Curator Nathaniel Silver directs installers on where Titian’s "The Rape of Europa" will be displayed at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for its upcoming exhibit, “Titian: Women, Myth, and Power.”

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

July 22 | A seagull flies by as Shepard Fairey and his crew work on a mural, five stories in the air, on a wall of the IMAX Simons Theatre at the New England Aquarium. The mural is part of "Sea Walls," an environmental public art project based in East Boston to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on the planet's fragile oceans.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

July 26 | A view of the Prudential Tower from Somerville. Smoke from the wildfires across the western part of the country and Canada reached Boston and cast an eerie haze over the region.

August

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Aug. 2 | Trainees at the Working At Heights training session at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy practice rescuing an injured colleague. Experts say careful planning is needed from policymakers and offshore wind developers to create good jobs in the industry in communities that need them. Some of that work has begun, but much of it has not.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Aug. 2 | A man dumps out a plastic drink bottle full of syringes onto the counter at the Southampton Street Shelter in Boston as part of a syringe buy-back project run by the Community Syringe Redemption Program.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Aug. 2 | The scene on Atkinson Street, where several people struggling with homelessness, and in some cases, substance use, wait outside the entrance of the Southampton Street Shelter. Known locally as "Mass. and Cass," the area around the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard in Boston saw a tent encampment grow. As it did, politicians, health workers and law enforcement debated tactics on how to give people living in the tents shelter or other resources.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Aug. 3 | Nine-year-old Isabella Kim, center, watches as her sister, Madeline, makes bubbles from a bubble wand as the pair played at Copps Hill Terrace in the North End. Isabella is hard of hearing and attends the Horace Mann School for the Deaf, which is slated to close due to water damage and major structural issues.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Aug. 3 | Prospero (John Douglas Thompson) tasks Ariel (John Lam) with his plan in "The Tempest." Shakespeare on the Common returned to Boston, giving audiences who had missed live theater performances a long-awaited slice of life before the pandemic. People trickled through the check-in points to claim spots in a sea of blankets and folding lawn chairs.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Aug. 6 | Fisherman Jamey McGroarty hurls a dogfish overboard to separate squids from bycatch in his crew's haul. Experts say fishing vessels owned by corporations can easily sail to fertile fishing grounds far off shore, where no wind turbines have been proposed. That's harder for a family-owned operation, and has many fishermen worried that offshore wind could wreck their livelihoods.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Aug. 10 | On a chimney top in East Somerville, a Cooper's hawk spreads its wings before setting off into the air.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Aug. 17 | Singer Haydee Irizarry and drummer Dan DeLucia of the metal band Carnivora perform “Bogdweller” at their practice space in Lynn. Irizarry is one of the artists selected for WBUR's ARTery 25 this year, a project that highlights artists of color whose creativity makes Greater Boston a brighter, more dynamic place.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Aug. 31 | Members of the crowd gathered at the vigil for Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo in Lawrence, Mass. hold candles as night falls during the ceremony. The young Marine was among the 13 service members killed in a suicide bombing as the U.S. pulled its final troops out of Afghanistan.

September

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Sept. 1 | Mike Totten moves into his new room in Allston. Sept. 1 is the city's biggest moving day of the year, with many leases starting and scores of college students returning to campus.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Sept. 7 | Technicians of the Block Island Wind Farm Support Team repair a crack in the blade of one of the wind turbines. Some experts say oil companies’ deep pockets and decades of working offshore make them uniquely suited to build turbines at sea. Others are skeptical. They worry that offshore wind could be a token investment.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Sept. 8Angela Sirois-Pitel, stewardship manager for The Nature Conservancy, holds a male bog turtle she pulled out from beneath a hummock in a wetland area in the Berkshires.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Sept. 20 | Bird bander Amy Hogan holds a young downy woodpecker and prepares to set it free. The Manomet banding lab in Plymouth bands around 2,500 new birds each year, helping answer pressing questions about habitat loss, ecological shifts and climate change.

October

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Oct. 2 | Stevie Downie cheers and raises a women’s rights flag during a speech at the Boston Rally to Defend Abortion. At least 1,000 people gathered at the Franklin Park Playstead to demonstrate as part of nationwide protests pushing back against several court cases that threaten to upend abortion rights in the U.S.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Oct. 5 | WBUR’s Magdiela Matta wears a pair of virtual reality goggles to watch the interactive portion of "Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience," an exhibition at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester that guides participants on a 10-minute journey through a day in the life of the artist.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Oct. 7 | Zahra Atayi, 7, lays her head on her mother, Shaista. They and their three other family members were among the first of 1,000 Afghan evacuees to resettle in Massachusetts after the war in Afghanistan ended.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Oct. 11 | Boston Marathon participants receive their medals after they finished the grueling 26.2-mile course. It had been more than a year and a half since runners had taken part in Marathon Monday.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Oct. 29 | Harlen Griffin paints a pumpkin at a Día de los Muertos event in Chelsea, Mass.

November

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Nov. 1 | A Boston Public Health Commission worker collects a syringe from a puddle on Southampton Street as city workers attempted to clear out people living in dozens of tents in the so-called "Mass. and Cass" area.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Nov. 2 | Two-year-old Emily Li-Nagy holds a "Wu for Mayor" sign at the Michelle Wu election night party at the Cyclorama in Boston.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Nov. 2 | Newly elected Boston Mayor Michelle Wu embraces her sons, Cass and Blaise, on stage at the Cyclorama.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Nov. 10 | Acting Mayor Kim Janey embraces 3-year-old Jnenaih Shingr after giving her farewell remarks at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. Janey made history this year, becoming both the first woman and the first person of color to lead the city. Ultimately, voters chose two other women to compete past the city's preliminary election for mayor.

(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
(Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Nov. 16 | A student officer at a Northern Essex Community College police academy training session fires a paint gun as he backs away form an assailant pursuing him with a knife.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Nov. 17 | Museum staff and their supporters picket outside of the front entrance of the Museum of Fine Arts on Huntington Avenue demanding livable wages and decent working conditions. Worker's wages have been frozen for the past two years due to the pandemic, and the museum refuses to guarantee wage increases until 2024.

December

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Dec. 1 | Keith Lockhart conducts the Boston Pops during a rehearsal for the Holiday Pops concerts at Symphony Hall.


With additional reporting from WBUR's Lisa Creamer

Jesse Costa Twitter Photographer, Multimedia Producer
Jesse Costa is the multimedia producer for WBUR.

More…

Robin Lubbock Twitter Videographer, Photographer
Robin Lubbock is a videographer and photographer for WBUR.

More…

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