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This assignment ran from Dec 21 to Jan 12, 2016.

This is the time of year when … the year ends (at least if you’re on the Gregorian calendar). And people can get pretty fancy when they ring in the new year. But this isn’t just an assignment about New Year’s Eve, or Chinese New Year, or Rosh Hashanah. This is an assignment about celebration.

I want to see your photographs of occasions that happen every year: holidays, festivals, birthdays, anniversaries—whatever rolls around every 365 days that gets you excited.

I like the idea of annual celebrations because I think they add both rhythm and excitement to our lives. Celebrations crystalize what it is that makes being alive so beautiful—demarcating what we find important, allowing us to connect to the people around us, and relieving us from the doldrums of ordinary time.

So show me your birthday candle wishes, your vibrant Holi festivities, your Easter morning sunrises, and your fast-breaking feasts! (And be sure to tell me exactly what you're celebrating in a detailed caption.)

Curated by:

Becky Harlan
Associate Producer
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

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  • Published

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Published Jan 22, 2016.
Thank you for your contributions!

Final Preparations

Posted jan 8, 2016

We’re in the final days of the Celebrations assignment. Many of you may have already submitted your three allotted photos. To you, I would suggest going back and adding information to your captions. Let me know exactly what’s going on in your images: where you are, what you’re celebrating, and why it’s important. Make it personal if you can.

Then, and only after that, you should very carefully select one more photo to upload because … you’re getting a fourth submission! That’s right, you all are now allowed to submit four photographs total!

What I’m looking for are images that show me something I can’t find in a stock photo. I’d rather you photograph a unique moment in a fresh way at a small celebration in your home than something I’ve seem hundreds of times at the biggest festival in the world. Don’t get me wrong, by all means please submit photos from large, popular festivals. I’m just saying when you do, make sure the images are of the highest quality (in regards to focus, exposure, color, framing, etc.) and that they have a unique point of view—I want to see the human element behind the balloons, the costumes, and the fireworks.

Good luck and thank you again for your hard work! 

The In-Between Moments

Posted jan 5, 2016

I continue to marvel at your images. What an amazing world we live in.

One of the things I love about celebrations is that so much of the hustle and bustle is in the preparation—in cooking, in decorating, in getting dressed for the occasion. Sometimes, the special moments even come after the fact in the debris that's been left behind—unwrapped packages, dirty dishes, confetti-covered streets. Maybe the real action is in the in-between, in the kid so tired she fell asleep at the big parade. I have seen some of these beautiful moments, and I'd like to see more of the story of the celebration, not just the climax.

Keep this in mind as you continue photographing and sharing these stories.

Details, Details, Details

Posted dec 29, 2015

I don't think I could have picked a more uplifting assignment. I've loved getting a glimpse into the vast array of traditions and festivities you’ve all photographed so far.

To help guide you as you continue to capture celebrations, here are a few details that might help with the assignment.

Detailed captions are a must. Even if you submit a powerful photo, I won't know whether this image fits into the assignment if I don't know what annual celebration you're photographing. I'm going to be strict about that rule: annual celebrations only. They don't have to be national holidays—more personal commemorations and occasions are fine so long as they recur annually. Occasions that happen once a year but may involve different people over time—like prom or graduation—are also okay. 

Because celebrations are often a community affair, I'm seeing a lot of the same situations appear in your submissions, which is not a problem in itself. It does mean that for an image to be selected it must go beyond the routine depictions of the celebration in question. Make sure to include details in your images that make them your own, details that make me feel something—intimacy, surprise, joy, amusement, or nostalgia. Imbue your images with these feelings by taking control of the frame: get close to people, use the light to your advantage, include quirky details, cut out background clutter. Make sure every pixel of your frame is contributing to the composition. I won't have the chance to experience many of these moments myself, so I look forward to feeling them through your frames.

Thanks for your enthusiasm so far! I can't wait to see more of what you celebrate.

Becky Harlan

Becky Harlan

Associate Producer
Becky Harlan is from the mountains of East Tennessee. She grew to love photography through the study of art history, and it's still the story behind each photo that fascinates her. She is an associate producer for National Geographic digital.