Partipilo always sticks to his journalism roots — it’s this style that heavily influences his process. In every situation Partipilo has to immediately be able to tell the story accurately. He uses his intuition to guide him towards the shot giving him access to places he wants to go, gaining trust from the people he meets and leading him to the pictures that are the most honest.
Serendipity also plays a major role in the process. John is present in the moment and allows for happenstance to get the photograph every time. Partipilo trusts in this process completely, because he believes if you over think it you won’t get your pictures. He calls it Zen Photography — reacting to whatever is in front of you.
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.
Photo Essay Gallery
- Best of Photojournalism, 2011
- Best Published Picture Story, 2011
- Visual Journalist of the Year, 2013
- Pulitzer Nomination, 2010
- Tennessee Photo of the Year, 2011
Partipilo’s eye for drama and human detail never deserted him even in plainly dangerous conditions. More importantly, neither his compassion or empathy for those he was photographing: a dazed boy cradling a ruined guitar, a homeowner weeping in the boat taking him to shore.
During the flood, Partipilo functioned as a witness, sentinel, recorder or posterity and signal flare. His wrenching photos from The Bottom — an impoverished and little-known community off Murfreesboro Road, where elderly African Americans residents lost not only their living quarters but the wheelchairs that would help them get to shelter — opened eyes as well as wallets, and arguably saved lives.
Years from now, when people want to show their children (or grandchildren) what the city lived through, minds will boggle at Partipilo’s iconic images: of the Opryland Hotel’s carefully manufactured indoor Delta overrun and destroyed by the real thing; of a trapped tunesmith serenading the six-feet-under parking lot of his inescapable hotel; of Riverfront Park underwater and Lower Broadway awash into silt. In so doing, he provided just what the city needed — focus.