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Quest for Happiness

This assignment ran from Nov 9 to Nov 30, 2017.

What makes us happy? Is it being close to loved ones? Being part of a community? Having good access to an education or health facilities?
For this assignment, I would like you to photograph what makes a community happy—the ecosystem of happiness. You may immediately have ideas to photograph obvious moments like someone smiling or a couple sharing a tender embrace, but please try to see deeper than an outward emotion. Show us the ingredients necessary in society to create a sense of happiness in a population. Create a strong image that will expand our understanding of what brings happiness to people in different cultures and environments. Does having easy access to the outdoors bring happiness? What about a clean environment, a sense of safety or a neighborhood that is united? I know this might sound difficult to achieve. Think about happiness in a deep sense, but remain factual and evocative in your image, walk the fine line between poetry and facts.

Deadline for submissions is Thursday, November 30th at 12:00 pm EST.
This assignment was inspired by the November 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine. Our cover story, “The Search for Happiness,” looks at some of the happiest places around the world, and what makes them so. This story was photographed by Matthieu Paley and is on newsstands now. 

Curated by:

Matthieu Paley
National Geographic Photographer
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

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  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Dec 12, 2017.
Thank you for your contributions!

Photographing Happiness

Posted nov 20, 2017

Thanks all for the submissions so far—I’ve seen some really great work in there! 

Some constructive advice as you submit more work: Even if a picture is great, if its connection to the assignment is too far-fetched, then unfortunately it won’t get selected. For example, it’s not enough to take a beautiful picture of my feet and just add the caption, “I love walking, it makes me happy.”

This is the challenge! Happiness is such a vast topic, so remember what I wrote in the introduction to this assignment: “Create a strong image that will expand our understanding of what brings happiness to people in different cultures and environments.” Take time in your caption to explain the connection between your image and the assignment.

Finally, please don’t retouch your images too much. If you must, do it very lightly. Now go out, have fun, and good luck!

- Matthieu Paley

National Geographic Photographer

Matthieu Paley

Matthieu Paley

National Geographic Photographer
Born in France, Matthieu Paley has travelled all over the world for National Geographic magazine. Focusing his efforts on regions that are misrepresented or misunderstood, he is especially committed to issues relating to diminishing cultures, sustainability and the environment. Matthieu’s fine art images have been shown in solo exhibitions worldwide and he has received numerous awards, including a 2017 World Press as well as a Photographer of the Year International award. Over the course of his career, Matthieu has learned 6 languages, feeding his passion to connect with the people he meets and helping him to instill a sense of intimacy into his images.