Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard grew up in the Midwest and takes pictures primarily as a way to have a conversation with her surroundings about American culture, politics and current events. The aim of her work is to examine the things we have been taught to value as a society as well as the underlying challenges of living in such a society. Julia’s work has been exhibited at The New York Historical Society, The International Center of Photography, The Brooklyn Museum, Capricious, and Powerhouse Gallery. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Mother Jones, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and New York Magazine. Julia is a graduate of the International Center of Photography’s Photojournalism and Documentary Studies Program and lives in New York.

American Holidays

Holidays reflect the American Dream, or a version of it. They illuminate our national psyche, our ideals, what we decide are special moments. Holidays tell us how we want to remember and be remembered, what we want our collective memories to be. They reveal our emotional attachment to our ideals. Holidays put pressure on the idea and formation of family. They add weight to the cracks in relationships, heighten expectations and enhance guilt, sadness, and nostalgia. On these federally declared days off we continue, imitate and create traditions and customs according to family lore, ability, position, and resources. We are our exaggerated selves, often sentimental as we enact rituals of grief and joy that are both privately and publicly performed.

In this contentious moment in history, it is important to note that everyone isn’t part of the celebration. If we look at our 10 national holidays, we find that in America we commemorate and make special war, service to country, religion (but only one), leadership (of men), work and time.

The fundamental motivation of national holidays is to selectively acknowledge what is of value to the general public. The results of these acknowledgments alter societal patterns, they affect business, the postal service, traffic, school calendars, airline prices, political and advertising campaigns and commerce. Holidays dictate when we see family, what we can and can’t eat, levels of consumption, even fashion. They reflect the power structures in the United States and often underscore our emotional and cultural vulnerabilities. At best, we hope to enjoy and share an authentic experience. At worst, people are excluded from these celebrations of America. My photographs are an ongoing record of these weighted days and the culture that confirms them.

To view more of Julia’s work please visit her website.