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