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Mayfield, Kentucky Theater Image

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Photograph shows a damaged movie theater in Mayfield, Kentucky after a deadly series of tornadoes in December 2021.

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In the aftermath of a deadly series of tornadoes on December 10 2021, a purported photograph of a damaged theater in Mayfield, Kentucky spread virally on Twitter:

Alongside what appeared to be a photograph of a vacant theater and what was its screen overlooking the real-life destruction in Mayfield, a user wrote:

This picture from the aftermath of the Kentucky tornadoes has to be the picture of the year, or the last few years. It is as if the screen that shielded us from seeing so much brutality has been ripped off and we are forced to see what we have for so long avoided.

A second tweet linked to a Reddit thread as their source for the photograph. It originated with a December 14 2021 post to r/pics, entitled “Pics I took from the tornado destruction in Mayfield Kentucky. (I live here)”:

Pics I took from the tornado destruction in Mayfield Kentucky. (I live here) from pics

In all, the original post (u/Ok-Structure5772) featured a set of eight photographs, with the Mayfield theater first among them. As was the case on Twitter, the top commenter on the thread was moved by the theater photograph:

That first one is an incredible shot.

Another user mused that the image was worthy of wider recognition:

I hate that it’s for this tragedy, but photography wise, these are some of the best aftermath pictures I’ve ever seen. That first one might get you a Pulitzer. That’s one of the best post storm pics ever taken. I really hope that it’s not in bad taste to say it, as I have friends in family in the area (thank god they’re all okay) but I’m being objective here, and just talking about the pics. That movie theater pic is one of the single best pieces of modern weather photography ever taken. I sincerely hope you’re noticed for them.

Another user linked to a similar image credited to Bloomberg’s Liam Kennedy. On December 15 2021, the image was picked up and shared on Twitter by Reuters’ @reuterspictures, credited to Shawn Triplett:

That same day, ErieNewsNow.com’s article “End Credits: Mayfield, KY Man Takes Poignant Photo of Tornado Damage, Sets up GoFundMe to Buy Toys for Affected Children” reported that Triplett and Kennedy photographed the aftermath together. It explained:

When Shawn Triplett returned home to Mayfield, KY, he was overcome with emotion at the sight of the wreckage from the devastating tornado that ripped through the town.

As a retired Marine who has done three tours in the Middle East, Triplett has faced his share of battle, but he said the tornado had done more damage than any war zone he’s ever seen.

Triplett’s Marine mentality kicked in and he knew he had to do what he could to help his community, so he rushed to the local shelter.

“I saw this kid crying in his mom’s arms, saying he lost his Christmas,” said Triplett. “It absolutely devastated me. It broke me in half.”

This inspired him to set up a GoFundMe to buy toys for children who lost everything.

A striking image of a tornado-damaged theater in Mayfield, Kentucky spread virally on Twitter. It was originally uploaded by Reddit u/Ok-Structure5772, Shawn Triplett. Triplett’s work was later picked up by Reuters’ photojournalism account, with a similar image by Kennedy acquired by Getty Images. Triplett additionally sought to raise funds to buy toys for children affected by the deadly weather event.