By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
Mass celebrations seem so foreign to us during these difficult, cooped-up days, but we have experienced collective joy. Wide eyes, craning necks, radiant smiles. “Kisses like bright flags hung on holiday,” as Joni Mitchell once wrote.
Seventy-five years ago today, photographer Frances McLaughlin-Gill captured (above) the joyful release of an officeworker as she sent ticker tape spiraling toward Manhattan streets, marking in her own way the Allied defeat of Germany in World War II.
It seems silly to have to say this, but not that long ago, huge gatherings of celebration also came with the seasons. Holiday parades, or eyes staring in shared wonder at the Fourth of July pyrotechnics exploding and blooming.
These muted days, celebrations still do occur, in homes and over a video conferencing services. They can be singalongs and Instagram dance parties. "A friend 'took me along' on a Zoom call celebrating her niece's daughter's first birthday" in Paris (below), says photographer Thomas Dworzak.
Farther down in this newsletter, we bring you four photographers and moms with their children. Each image is a celebration of sorts. In the last photograph, you’ll see a little girl with a camera pointed at the sky. Does she symbolize the hope of the future? Of another generation ready to document and preserve our celebrations? All I knew when I took it: She is my daughter, and I was celebrating the time I spent with her.
Have a happy Mother’s Day, however you celebrate it.
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Your Instagram photo of the day
Paying tribute: Months before today’s 75th anniversary of the Allied triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II, photographer Veronika K. Ko stopped at a monument to Holocaust victims in Berlin. “I was taking pictures when I noticed an old man, who was crying, bent over one of these grave symbols. His wife, on the contrary, was smiling.” Approaching, Veronika discovered both were Auschwitz survivors. “They assured me that they will continue coming to Berlin every year. They said that we have to remember and respect history so we can safeguard the future!”
Related: 75 years after the Nazis surrendered, all sides agree: War is hell
Subscriber exclusive: Hear the last voices of World War II
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Today in a minute
The truth prevailed: India’s government did not want to world to see its crackdown on Kashmir. It shut down internet and phone service. But three AP photographers got images out, hiding cameras in vegetable bags, taking cover in strangers’ homes, and pressing travelers to carry out photo files with them. On Monday, Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan, and Channi Anand won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. Reuters took the Breaking News Photography award for its coverage of the Hong Kong protests.
Getting to know the neighbors: It’s amazing what you learn when you have time hanging around the building where you live. Justin von Oldershausen used his time at home talking and distance photographing his neighbors in Jamaica, Queens. The New York Times-published project, with text by his sister, Sasha von Oldershausen, often focuses on the dreams that residents have when this is over. Some are simple. “I want to go to [Greenwich] Village, sit in Washington Square Park, look at people,” says one neighbor.
Followup: A week ago we led the newsletter with the efforts of photographer Jim Richardson to commemorate an outsized tribal fishing leader he had once photographed for National Geographic. A tribal representative thanked Jim and the Nat Geo family, noting that donations to support the widow and four children of Oregon’s Bobby Begay, who died of COVID-19, had jumped following publication.
The big takeaway
How they mother now: For Mother’s Day, we asked a few mothers among us to show us what their lives are like under the pandemic. They responded by revealing the joy and anxiety, the panic and calm, and the gratitude and guilt that they’ve experienced with their children in recent months. Chile-based photographer Tamara Merino says the confinement at home with her son, Ikal (above) “feels stronger and more overwhelming when someone imposes it on you. When we have freedom over our actions, and we decide to stay home, we still feel free. Not anymore."
From Yerevan, Armenia: Photographer Anush Babajanyan says she’s focusing on priorities: “This is a truly exceptional time when I can spend long, productive days with my children and not feel endlessly torn about work, purpose in life and all sorts of other thoughts. Worries and imperfection are always there, in endless attempts at combining homeschooling, work and emails, chores. But especially when it comes to my family, I try to think in priorities. And for us the priorities are being together, feeling content, learning about the world, eating healthy. If we have that covered, we’ll take the imperfections. These days and moments do make me feel thankful as a mother, but also restless and impatient as a photographer, who simply misses travel and the ability to step into not only a stranger’s, but anyone’s home."
From Topanga Canyon, California: “Nahuel, 6, sits surrounded my spring flowers near our home,” says photographer Karla Gachet. ”We are lucky to live surrounded by nature. Because of the quarantine we have made it a point to get the boys out every day. These walks have become magical. I feel like I will look back at this time with nostalgia: the time when the outside world was a scary place and yet we became stronger as a family."
From Washington, D.C.: Here’s the photo I mentioned earlier in the newsletter. I called it “always looking up” on my Instagram feed, and that’s my hope for Astrid, 7, and our family throughout these tough times. See the entire gallery here.
Photo tip of the week
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The last glimpse
Pristine: In August 1914, as the world lurched toward war, National Geographic devoted a huge chunk of its monthly issue to brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb and their experiences and images of the Grand Canyon. The brothers, who risked their lives getting cliff-hugging images, also shot what amounted to the first motion picture showing the Grand Canyon. Our senior photo archivist, Sara Manco, is particularly fond of the image above, of wintertime clouds hanging below the rim of the canyon, with Bright Angel Creek in the center. Emery, the younger brother, kept photographing the canyon for another 55 years, based in his studio on the canyon’s South Rim.
Adventure: Hiking the Grand Canyon from end to end