Nicole Brannen

What your January 2021 looked like

From New Zealand to Nigeria, here's how the year kicked off.

by Ryan White
01 February 2021, 8:00am

Nicole Brannen

i-D closed out 2020 with My Year in a Photo, the 12-month retrospective that brought in hundreds of incredible submissions from all over the world. We enjoyed it so much that from now on, we’ll be running it as a regular feature. At the end of each month, we’ll open our inbox to photographs from anyone and everyone — just email

A month may not seem like long but, from protests in Russia, Tunisia and Australia to the violence in Washington D.C., deeper global lockdowns to the first vaccines being rolled out, a lot certainly can happen in four short weeks.

a man's face with a shadow over it

Nicole Brannen, 23, New Zealand

“I couldn't help but think about how lucky I have been to spend January in my homeland, Aotearoa. It is truly paradise.”

a man and woman lying on the sofa

Matias Rodriguez, 18, Temecula, California

“This is a photo of my mom and dad the week my dad came back home after being hospitalized with COVID-19. It was one of the most chaotic times of all our lives.”

a man takes a photo in a window's reflection

Steven Molina Contreras, 22, New York

“I really believe this responds to my life this month, the new year, my 22nd birthday, and the atmosphere of life in a locked-down, contemplative winter in NYC. I spent this entire month consumed with photography, mine and others, since I was also doing a remote artist-in-residency.”

a man wearing a hat that says happy

Ethan Phan, 22, Orange County, California

“Despite all that has already unfolded this month, I think we can all agree we just want to end up happy.”

an armed guard sat amongst pigeons

Fejz Sadiku, 22, Washington D.C.

“These photos are the perfect example of how inauguration day went, peaceful but still ready for anything.”

glare of the sun the sun and a person's shadow

Sonya Kydeeva, 32, The Black Sea, Sochi

“Sochi is a city in which there is already an isolation from everything that happens. Many young people moved here during the quarantine, for remote work or from their own problems. These polaroids were taken during the days when a small number of civilians and a large number of riot police gathered in the city center. We all went to the yards, to the beaches, and to our apartments.”

men playing a board game outside

Karl-hens Pompilus, 22, Brooklyn, New York

“I’ve spent the beginning of the year so far walking around Chinatown in Manhattan taking photos and documenting the impact of COVID there. The streets of Chinatown are weirdly quiet compared to pre-COVID. However, Columbus Park will always be packed with men playing old Chinese board games till night falls which always surprises me and gives me a good sense of hope for this year’s future.”

a sign at a protest in saint petersburg

Ksenia, 25, Saint Petersburg, Russia

“‘Love is stronger than fear’, the protest against a corrupt government in Saint Petersburg.”

a bus clock reading the time 4:44

Angel, 18, Ontario, Canada

“Throughout this month, I felt like this January didn’t feel like the start of a new year. The transition from December 2020-January 2021 felt too seamless, almost like the same month. But, I am thankful that January gave me a lot to think of.”

hikers resting on the side of a mountain

Nadia Harari, 19, Melbourne, Australia

“On New Years Day, my friends and I hiked Mount Feathertop, the second largest mountain in Victoria, Australia. For me this was a struggle, my year had included a breakup and my father almost passing away and with a six-month lockdown I was unfit and lost. I reached the top of the mountain and burst out crying.”

a man covering his face wearing a necklace

Boujee Mustard, 22, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“January was just a warm up.”

a car ahead on a long foggy road

Niko Tampio, 31, Finland

“Driving through this fog on January 1st, as usual, I felt excited about the coming year, but still different, as currently we're not able to clearly see where we are heading.”

a woman lying on a bed

Kristina Shakht, 25, New York via Russia

“With the New Year that came I feel like I'm trying to find ways to stay grounded and use photography as my art therapy. Besides how crazy it is in the USA, it is crazy in Russia as well. And while American lives are vegetarian compared to Russians, it still brings a lot of anxiety. This is a picture of my friend, who's a photographer as well.”

a webcam picture of a girl and a birthday balloon

Sinéad Ní Tomás, 20, Dublin, Ireland

“This January I turned 20. I haven’t seen my friends or family in almost a year. My country is still in lockdown. My social life lives on Zoom. This photo is a screenshot of when I started the meeting a few minutes before people started to arrive to my Zoom birthday party. Simply staring at myself before I collect my brave face to virtually face other people.”

a scottish landscape

Daniyel Lowden, 28, Perth, Scotland

“I have done literally nothing but walks all January because of lockdown and it’s been hella isolating. So the only photos I have are from my camera roll and I think they reflect that loneliness.”

three people walking through a field

Chris Krakoczki, 20, Budapest, Hungary

“I shot this around last September, but only got it developed last week. It feels distant to look at. 2021 feels mysterious but I find hope in it. I think this year will turn out for the better.”

traffic light signs piled up on the road

Chloe Pullman, 17, Long Beach, California

“This image represents all the things that are still stopping us from moving forward towards a more normal life in 2021. The amount of traffic lights blocking the path serve as a visual representation of all the things we are still recovering from, from 2020 and before.”

a woman standing on a desk covered in paper

Yi Chen, 24, Carlisle, Massachusetts

“You can have it all they said… This photograph describes my January -- trying to keep my two day jobs, still pursue my career, take care of my sick family members, clean the home, tidy the kitchen, take care of my physical health, provide emotional guidance (and, oh yeah, not getting the deadly virus while doing it). All these aspects are made harder as a young Asian woman who has to continually challenge the stereotypes of who she is supposed to be in the workplace (subservient) and the roles she must embody in the home (caretaker) if she is to succeed in her goals. Whereas for cis men, to succeed in their goals is to fulfil the expectation.”

a man walking down the street with a briefcase

Felipe Torres, 22, Quito, Ecuador

“Kind of gives me hope.”

an x-ray of a leg

Samantha Soffera, 22, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“My first serious injury that required me to get surgery happened on the 10th. Coming home and spending this much quality time with my family is something I might not have done otherwise.”

man looking out a skylight

Eibhlin Lee, 20, Cork, Ireland

“This is my boyfriend in our student apartment, watching the deserted street underneath (usually we would all be running around drunk in the night). These photos show the extent of my world at the moment.”

two women linking arms on the street

Ryan Williams, 22, New York

“I feel as if there’s hope for the future.”

a woman photographing her reflection

Gwen van den Boogaard, 17, Haarlem, The Netherlands

“January consisted of a lot of self-reflection. I’ve simply been feeling incredibly overwhelmed. I can’t understand my own feelings.”

a shirtless man with blonde hair and a candy necklace

Moise Youmba, 25, Munich, Germany

“In Germany we went through another lockdown. When we all thought the end was near it got prolonged. I had little energy, was uninspired and without motivation. Since I wasn’t able to take pictures of other people I decided to take some self-portraits. At least that way I could stay connected to my craft. In order to spice the whole thing up, I coloured my hair blonde (for the first time) and wore a candy necklace. Life can be sweet.”

a camera in a misty reflection

Erica, 26, Pakistan

“This photo was taken after a hot shower. It’s to remind and reassure myself to relax, slow down, and breathe. Take the time to figure life out at your own pace. Trust that things will be alright.”

a boy sitting in the shadows

Alva, 19, Landskrona, Sweden

“January was mostly sitting, thinking and waiting.”

a tree and the moon at night

Olisa Tasie-Amadi, 18, Nigeria

"For me, this represents the engulfing darkness, struggle, or even just negative atmosphere around the world. At the same time, there's always the little light in the middle. It reminds me of the quote: 'I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.'"

the moon behind clouds

Rudy Hayes, 15, London


a man staring at a lift mirror

André, 23, Shepperton

“This is a photograph of artist and musician Cammy. I believe this image encapsulates how a lot of us are feeling recently. With so much time to ourselves, I personally have found myself doing more to focus on my own mental health and well-being.”

a collage of polaroids of friends

Amari Arrindell, 20, Atlanta, Georgia

“To me this image says: ‘It's easy to be happy when you're surrounded by the right PEOPLE™.’”

a girl climbing over a fence

Thea, 21, Philippines

“I turned 21; I guess it’s my coming-of-age and the beginning of a quarter-life crisis.”

a portrait of a person with a shaved head and nose piercing

Jaylan Rhea, 26, Durham, North Carolina

“Questions of a lifetime: what does it feel like to own who you are? What is your soul calling you to do?”

a condom wrapper lying on the floor

James, 21, Northern Ireland

“This photos represents the intimacy we’ve been missing so much during this lockdown.”

a woman in a face mask

Jake Alexander Evans, 16, London

“Lockdown had been hard for a lot of people and, with the uncertainty of exam season and the usual pressures of being a student, I wanted to show a relaxing side and comfort me and my mum have been trying to reach in January.”

polaroid of a flower

Pedro da Silva, 22, Porto, Portugal

“Portugal is in lockdown with a huge number of cases per day. This is how I spend my days, exploring my house and my garden. This is an image of hope, expectations and dreams. Of all of the things, this image is a celebration for the upcoming year!”

a topless man with his head in his hands

Sterling Smith, 18, New York City

“This photograph means a lot to me because I think it visually represents where a lot of artists are mentally right now. This image shows a local graffiti artist in his ‘studio’ in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.”

Flux in Being (Jann) (1).png

Jann Madariaga, 20, Philippines

“This photo is a part of an experimental film I am currently working on which tries to reflect the intensified alienation from myself and others during this pandemic.”

a birthday cake that says just another existential crisis

Lulu Nisrina, 27, Bekasi, Indonesia

“This is a scanned instax film of my 27th birthday cake. I didn't think the pandemic would last this long. So, after being stuck in limbo for almost a year now, it only felt right for me to get myself a heart-shaped birthday cake.”

a woman's side profile with dyed red hair

Dorentina Emini, 24, Montreux, Switzerland


a rainbow and the silhouette of a hand

Veronica, 17, Belarus

“A rare ray of sunshine in these difficult times for my country. The fight between good and evil. Hope and struggle.”

grafitti that reads email god church is closed

Bryan Brock, 41, Toronto, Canada

“With places of worship still being forced to close during lockdown, you have to wonder how people are coping.”


All images courtesy of the artist

my year in a photo