Photographer Julia Gillard’s project American Holidays documents both the conventional and often reinterpreted tradition of holidays in the United States. For more than three years, she has spent each holiday in a different location, documenting Americans as they celebrate.
“Holidays provide a very specific space in which to photograph; they exist in breaks and days off, moments of rest and reflection. The idea is that we will spend this time off celebrating, remembering, and commemorating something or someone is in the past,” she says.
Gillard notes that many American holidays have changed focus or in some cases, simply been re-invented.
“Labor Day isn’t as much about honoring labor anymore but more about marking the end of summer, about pie and corn on the cob, snow cones and fairgrounds…Memorial Day honors soldiers but often revolves around eating—the tradition of grilling is hard to escape on this day, the unofficial start of summer.”
Gillard’s photographs serve as a document to our nation’s current approach to holidays and gatherings. “People want a reason to celebrate…they want to be nostalgic and want to create memories,” she says.
“The work for me has been a sociological narrative of American culture and tradition, region and class, ceremony and consumption. Each photograph is meant to contribute to our often ironic collective memory of the country.”