31 Days of Happiness Countdown: 'Ugly Spots, Pretty Shots.' (Day 3)

Thanks for stopping by for Day 3 of Upworthy's 31 Days of Happiness Countdown! If this is your first visit, here's the gist: Each day between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, we're sharing stories we hope will bring joy, smiles, and laughter into our lives and yours. It's been a challenging year for a lot of us, so why not end it on a high note with a bit of happiness? Check back tomorrow (or click the links at the bottom) for another installment!

The holiday season is all about adding a little bit of cheer to our otherwise routine lives — something that's easy to do when you're surrounded by sparkling lights and a blanket of snow.


Once we all return to our regular, holiday-free slog, however, finding joy in the unexpected becomes more of a challenge.

It's a challenge that photographer Jenna Martin has decided to tackle head on, through her awesome portrait series "Ugly Spots, Pretty Shots."

All photos by Jenna Martin, used with permission.

The photo series showcases just what kind of magic can happen when you look at an otherwise unremarkable place with a more creative attitude.

Martin and her model friend Rachelle Kathleen picked out "ugly" places — like hardware stores and tire shops — and found ways to create amazing photos from these otherwise uninteresting backdrops.

Next thing you know, this lighting section:

...becomes this crystal wonderland!

Martin has a few rules the pair follow when they do these unconventional shoots. "We have to work with what is there," she explains on her blog. "No props or extra lighting." So what you see is what was there — no behind-the-scenes tricks to make the photos look fancier.

They also don't change the scene in any major way (though they do stay out of the way of customers and employees) and they always try to do the whole shoot within an hour.

Though Martin is a professional photographer, she doesn't do these shoots with clients. It's just a fun opportunity for two creative friends to force themselves to see beauty where, normally, people see the exact opposite.

You can click through to the original posts (there are two so far) to see more of Martin's shots, plus snaps she took with her phone to demonstrate exactly what each backdrop looked like to the naked eye.

It's proof that, with a little creativity and some resolve, we can find joy anywhere — and not just at the holidays!

More days of happiness here: DAY 1 / DAY 2 / [DAY 3] / DAY 4 / DAY 5/ DAY 6 / DAY 7 / DAY 8 / DAY 9 / DAY 10 / DAY 11 / DAY 12 / DAY 13 / DAY 14 / DAY 15 / DAY 16 / DAY 17/ DAY 18 / DAY 19 / DAY 20 / DAY 21 / DAY 22 / DAY 23 / DAY 24 / DAY 25 / DAY 26 / DAY 27 / DAY 28 / DAY 29 / DAY 30 / DAY 31
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Women around the world are constantly bombarded by traditional and outdated societal expectations when it comes to how they live their lives: meet a man, get married, buy a home, have kids.

Many of these pressures often come from within their own families and friend circles, which can be a source of tension and disconnect in their lives.

Global skincare brand SK-II created a new campaign exploring these expectations from the perspective of four women in four different countries whose timelines vary dramatically from what their mothers, grandmothers, or close friends envision for them.

SK-II had Katie Couric meet with these women and their loved ones to discuss the evolving and controversial topic of marriage pressure and societal expectations.

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"What happens when dreams clash with expectations? We're all supposed to hit certain milestones: a degree, marriage, a family," Couric said before diving into conversation with the "young women who are defining their own lives while navigating the expectations of the ones who love them most."

Maluca, a musician in New York, explains that she comes from an immigrant family, which comes with the expectation that she should live the "American Dream."

"You come here, go to school, you get married, buy a house, have kids," she said.

Her mother, who herself achieved the "American Dream" with hard work and dedication when she came to the United States, wants to see her daughter living a stable life.

"I'd love for her to be married and I'd love her to have a big wedding," she said.

Chun Xia, an award-winning Chinese actress who's outspoken about empowering other young women in China, said people question her marital status regularly.

"I'm always asked, 'Don't you want to get married? Don't you want to start a family and have kids like you should at your age?' But the truth is I really don't want to at this point. I am not ready yet," she said.

In South Korea, Nara, a queer-identifying artist, believes her generation should have a choice in everything they do, but her mother has a different plan in mind.

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"I just thought she would have a job and meet a man to get married in her early 30s," Nara's mom said.

But Nara hopes she can one day marry her girlfriend, even though it's currently illegal in her country.

Her mother, however, still envisions a different life for her daughter. "Deep in my heart, I hope she will change her mind one day," she said.

Maina, a 27-year-old Japanese woman, explains that in her home country, those who aren't married by the time they're 25 to 30, are often referred to as "unsold goods."

Her mom is worried about her daughter not being able to find a boyfriend because she isn't "conventional."

"I really want her to find the right man and get married, to be seen as marriage material," she said.

After interviewing the women and their families, Couric helped them explore a visual representation of their timelines, which showcased the paths each woman sees her life going in contrast with what her relatives envision.

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"For each young woman, two timelines were created. One represents the expectations. The other, their aspirations," Couric explained. "There's often a disconnect between dreams and expectations. But could seeing the difference lead to greater understanding?"

The women all explored their timelines, which included milestones like having "cute babies," going back to school, not being limited by age, and pursuing dreams.

By seeing their differences side-by-side, the women and their families were able to partake in more open dialogue regarding the expectations they each held.

One of the women's mom's realized her daughter was lucky to be born during a time when she has the freedom to make non-traditional choices.

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"It looks like she was born in the right time to be free and confident in what she wants to do," she said.

"There's a new generation of women writing their own rules, saying, 'we want to do things our way,' and that can be hard," Couric explained.

The video ends with the tagline: "Forge your own path and choose the life you want; Draw your own timeline."

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