How do you find moments of grace, beauty and joy during a pandemic?

Children play, people dance, and lovers kiss—signs of the human spirit that COVID-19 can’t dim. These photos document them.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Photographer Wale Oyéjidé's daughter found magic in the boundless kingdom she created in her tiny room. “Months before, as the world began to close itself off to us, my daughter (age 8) and I decided we wanted to remember this difficult time differently,” says Oyéjidé. “We knew there would be moments of grace amidst the panic. And we wanted to hold onto them.”
Photograph by Wale Oyéjidé

Even amid the ongoing tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still full of joy. Students exult as they walk across the stage to graduate. Families delight in celebrating birthdays together, even if only virtually. Couples rejoice that they are finally able to marry after postponing their weddings. In these ways and others, people across the planet have found happiness amid the despair.

From South Sudan to Chile to Utah, photographers have witnessed different forms of joy throughout the pandemic: Children playing outdoors, people reuniting after long months of separation, partygoers breaking a piñata at a family gathering.   

National Geographic contributor Dina Litovsky, for instance, noticed an embrace outside a Greenpoint deli in Brooklyn, New York, that reminded her of what the city was once like.

“For more than a year, public physical closeness has become a thing of the past,” she says. “But as more and more people have gotten vaccinated over the past spring and summer, masks became sparser and public spaces started resembling their former vibrant selves. This tender moment felt like a return to how the city used to be.”

Here, 33 photographers share the glimpses of joy they found during a difficult time.

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