The standouts:
A year of illustrations and photography at NBC News

In an ever-changing news cycle and under tight deadlines, illustrators and photographers are tasked with bringing visual life to some of the most important stories of our time. See a sampling of our striking original art of 2021.

'Magic dirt': How the internet fueled, and defeated, the pandemic's weirdest MLM

Black Oxygen Organics became a sudden hit in the fringe world of alternative medicines and supplements, where even dirt can go for $110 a bag.

Illustration by Robert Beatty

Hindsight is…
2020? or 2021?

So much happened this year, it can be hard to keep track. Take our quiz to see if you remember when something actually occurred.

Illustration by Filippo Fontana

After the Riot

It’s been 100 days since the attack on the Capitol, and those who were inside still struggle with their memories.

Photography by Frank Thorp V

Meet the Compton Cowboy riding to honor Black cowboys and Juneteenth

Tre Hosley will take part in the Bill Pickett Invitational, an all-Black rodeo airing for the first time on network television Saturday.

Photography by Bethany Mollenkof

Mobile home dwellers hit even harder when facing eviction

"I feel like we're losing it all," said one owner.

Photography by Ackerman + Gruber

In a Pennsylvania town, a Facebook group fills the local news void

The News Alerts of Beaver County group has become a must-read after the decline of the local newspaper. That's worked out, sometimes.

Illustration by Chelsea Stahl

'If you build it, they will come': California desert cashes in on early cannabis investment

“It’s been incredible to see the transformation,” said Doria Wilms, deputy city manager of Desert Hot Springs. “We don’t see it slowing down.”

Photography by Maggie Shannon

Ukraine's war-torn Donbas region is on the verge of environmental disaster

“For now, the Nova mine is coping with the waters,” a former worker said. “But this is nature, it can’t be predicted.”

Photography by Oksana Parafeniuk

In wealthy Loudoun County, Virginia, parents face threats in battle over equity in schools

“This has made people afraid to speak up,” one mother said. “They’re afraid that what happens to us is going to happen to them."

Illustration by Anuj Shrestha

Opinion | Covid vaccine honor systems are as ridiculous as they sound

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that we can’t rely on the decency of those around us. A willingness to blindly trust simply doesn’t compute.”

Illustration by Olivia Fields

Opinion | Covid lockdowns turned buying plants into the next big pandemic trend — for good reason

Pandemic houseplant parents are filling the voids in our social lives — and apartments — with an influx of flora.

Illustration by Cari Vander Yacht

Opinion | What we should keep post-pandemic

These lessons from the quarantine era made our lives richer, healthier and more meaningful. Here's what to hold on to after Covid.

Illustrations by Anjali Nair and Chelsea Stahl

Latinas in trucking are finding their place — in the driver's seats of 18-wheelers

“I never in my head would have thought that I would be able to or I would be in truck driving,” says Tracy Barajas, a Latina trucker from California.

Photography by Alyson Aliano

‘Carol’s Journey’: What Facebook knew about how it radicalized users

Internal documents suggest Facebook has long known its algorithms and recommendation systems push some users to extremes.

Illustration by Doug Chayka

Cancel 'curry'? Why South Asian American chefs say it's time for the word to go

Desi Americans say the British colonial term “curry” doesn’t represent what they grew up eating and are refusing to cater to the Western gaze.

Illustration by Kiran Joan

Opinion | The Covid vaccine means a return to work. And a wave of resignations.

For everyone exiting the pandemic feeling burned out, know you are not alone.

Illustration by George Wylesol

A year later, protesters injured by police are still trying to heal

Protesters filled streets around the world after George Floyd’s killing. For some, the scars of that summer run deep.

Photography by Aaron Ricketts

For veterans with PTSD, pandemic ‘feels a lot like wartime’

Some veterans have spent years working to overcome their trauma. The Covid-19 crisis has thrust them back to their darkest days.

Photography by Jenna Schoenefeld

Unable to resist the urge to wave at the end of Zoom calls? You're not alone

From our tiny squares of digital real estate, many of us have become aggressive wavers. Body language experts say this is a good thing.

Illustration by Jack Sachs

‘Snowball effect’: The global reasons why you can’t buy what you want right now

From chicken tenders to toys to bottles of wine: 7 items hurt by backlogs or rising prices.

Illustration by Anuj Shrestha

Five Americans on what $50K of federal student loan forgiveness would mean to them

President Joe Biden has said he wants to provide $10,000 federal student debt relief. Some Democrats want that number to be $50,000.

Illustration by Madison Ketcham

They joined Black Lives Matter protests in Des Moines, Iowa. It changed their lives.

Activists described unexpectedly finding a calling. People who had never attended a City Council meeting are now running for a seat. But they’ve also faced consequences.

Photography by Rachel Mummey

Joe Biden is proving progressives wrong. And they're loving it.

"Biden has been incredibly responsive to the progressive movement," said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a first-term Democrat from the New York City area.

Illustration by Eliana Rodgers

Beloved NY fabric shop to close after 46 years

Built on a half-century love story and rocketed to viral fame last year, Saroj Goyal’s Dress Shoppe II will soon be gone from the East Village.

Photography by Julius Constantine Motal

Opinion | Stop obsessing about your Covid weight gains. Love your body and have a hot (fat) girl summer.

We survived a global pandemic and now you're worried about the size of your jeans? Let's just refuse to ever be ashamed of our bodies again.

Illustration by Anjali Nair

Opinion | The online dating beauty filter trap

These tools will make you look more like the widely admired beauty ideal. But if you use them, you could be disappointing everyone — including yourself.

Illustration by Michelle Rohn

Pride 30: The Firsts

June is Pride Month, and this year, we're celebrating by honoring 30 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer firsts.

Illustration by Sol Cotti

Opinion | My post-Covid family reunion wasn't what I expected. But it was so much of what I needed.

Before this lost year, flying to see my extended family was just another trip. This time, it was full of many reminders of what we had all missed out on.

Illustration by Nicole Rifkin