The best time of the week captured by eight photographers in eight different cities across America

Each day demands its own body language, and Saturday night, I think, is best expressed through outstretched arms. This is the posture of revelers reaching for drinks across the bar or for friends across the dance floor. That body language—loose-limbed, open, seeking—is not limited to the club. The Saturday-night feeling can be found in any place where a few are gathered, when the weight of the week suddenly falls away.

This summer, The Atlantic commissioned eight photographers to capture that weekend buoyancy in eight places across the country. The resulting portfolios celebrate Saturday nights that are flirty, reverent, raucous, and wholesome, including a pop-up party in Detroit, Michigan; a roller-skating rink in McMinnville, Tennessee; and a state fair in Palmer, Alaska, where evening visitors stroll drenched in the region’s nighttime sun. Across these images, outstretched arms beckon to us—as in Adali Schell’s snapshots of Los Angeles youths roaming rooftops and empty lots, grasping for cigarettes and firecrackers and one another; or those of the spectators at a North Mississippi drag strip, whom Timothy Ivy photographs mid-whoop during a race. A queen sashaying down the stage of the Parrot, one of Florida’s oldest gay bars, looks about ready to ascend under the rapt gaze of the crowd and Nabil Harb’s camera.

A Saturday night can set a whole neighborhood in joyful motion. In Chris Perez’s photographs of a Harlem block party, a warm flash imbues roadside card games and riverside dancing with the glow and zip of a disco. In one portrait, a young brown-skinned girl in a pink-striped dress sips from a juice pouch while staring at the camera with soft defiance. Cozy and confident, she’s got the best gear for a great Saturday night: a little drink, a little entertainment, a little cash on the side.

The week’s end can be festive; it can also be reflective. On Saturday nights in a Boston suburb, a group of queer Jewish friends perform a havdalah ceremony to mark, in openhearted community, the closing of Shabbat. The photographer Anne Vetter documents the ritual’s beauty, their camera lingering on a roped candle held aloft, its flame cutting through the dusk. Havdalah also honors the start of another week, which is the quiet work of all Saturday-night celebrations: a burst of light to guide us to new mornings.

Nicole Acheampong


Photographs by Nabil Harb, Video by Garret Moore

One of the oldest gay bars in the Sunshine State is called the Parrot. With a modest exterior and surrounded by auto shops, the venue is illuminated each Saturday during drag shows, led by the glittering queens of central Florida.

man stick his head out of a bar window

people at a bar waiting for service
diptych: bottle of alcohol; hand on a man's neck

a man throws his head back and another man leans into his neck
an audience in a bar
A drag artist busts onto stage with arms out
men sitting on stools side stage with dollars in their hands
diptych: a person in drag turning around; a man with a dollar in his mouth

drag artist collecting money
State Fair seen from above with  rides, people and mountains in the frame.

Photographs by Ash Adams

The Alaska State Fair is nestled in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and takes place in late summer, when the sun barely dips below the horizon line. Visitors amble among carnival rides, petting zoos, and vegetable exhibits late into the night.

A woman stands holding a platter of candied apples
people waiting in line for fair snacks
fair swing ride
a man holding an ear of corn wearing a cowboy hat
Diptych: a pigs back with hands on it; a mother and child wearing matching floral dresses and denim jackets
diptych: 3 stylish people posing in a barn; a cow
a boy climbs a corral fence

Diptych: people walk with snacks by a teal barn; a root vegetable contest
Women walk by a carousel

Photograph of Dylan Dougherty, 21, and Montserrat Fonseca, 19, hanging out on a rooftop overseeing Downtown Los Angeles, CA, on the evening of July 30th, 2022.

Photographs by Adali Schell

On weekends, a crew of young Angelenos finds adventure in the city’s most unassuming corners.

two girls sit on a curb
Picture of Omeed Almassi, 19, Clyde Crooks, 20, and Lukas Berg, 20, enjoying ice cream at a gas station in East Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA, on the evening of July 30th, 2022.

diptych: two pictures of women playing pool
a young woman driving a taxi with a friend in back
young men laughing on a street with a car parked near them

diptych:  a young man with head down walks through a hole in a fence: 3 men with fireworks
a young woman in white with city lights behind
a young couple laying on ground looks out at city lights
a car with exhaust behind it

Photographs by Timothy Ivy

In Holly Springs, racers gather to show off their souped-up cars and bikes, and to compete at the local track.

Picture of Nuwisha Williams protecting her ears from the loud engines at the Holly Springs Motorsports racetrack in Holly Springs, Miss.

a car on a race track
kids and adults watch a race

diptych: people tailgate outside an rv; a young boy looks at the track next to sign saying no one under 16

car racing
a couple cheering
a woman on skates in front of a neon sign and lockers

Photographs by Stacy Kranitz

At Hot Wheels, a family-owned rink in the heart of Tennessee, $8 open-skate night belongs to the teens and tweens.

diptych: a woman passes out skates; legs wearing skates

parents helping kids lace up their skates
a girl skates by a hand out
triptych: kids doing the limbo on skates

girls hold hands as they come off the rink
two girls working the snack counter
diptych: a boy plays a game; a girl sits in the food area
three boys hang over the rink railing
young adult rink workers skate as couples
kids skate by

a kid lays flat out with skates on
a group of young adults signing with candles around a table

Photographs by Anne Vetter

At the end of Shabbat, a group of queer, Jewish friends in Newton, Massachusetts, meet up for a havdalah ceremony—using candles, spices, and wine to awaken their senses and appreciate the beauty in their traditions and in one another.

a close up of wine being poured with people standing around

young adults drinking ceremonial wine

diptych: candle with hands illuminated: a woman looks left

putting out a candle in a wine glass

triptych: a young man, candle in wine, young women
a girl wearing a stripe dress sips a juice on a stoop
New York

Photographs by Chris Perez

On a summer Saturday night, a Hamilton Heights block party comes with family gatherings along the avenue, a dominoes game on the corner, and dancing in the open air.

several boys in a line pose for a picture

diptych: dominoes board and two people share icees
people dressed in white dance in a park

diptych: man and woman smoking cigars and a woman dressed in African inspired costume dancing
card table

hand petting a dog on the block

Photographs by Sylvia Jarrus, Video by Kashira Dowridge

In Detroit, the party series Jerk X Jollof mixes African and Caribbean music for a festive, fluorescent-lit bash.

diptych: close up tk
DJ with city lights
a group of women dancing

woman dancing on stage bathed in peach light
Picture of women dancing in Detroit, Michigan
triptych: two men giving hand signals, two women dance, men's feet