To capture the world’s biggest Santa Claus networking and educational event, photographer Dina Litovsky made the unlikely trek to Branson, Missouri in July on assignment for National Geographic. The convention, Discover Santa, hosts over 800 professional Santa Clauses for workshops that range from “A More Comfortable Hat for Santa” to the more business-oriented “Finding and Keeping Clients”—but this isn’t your average mall Santa hangout.
Litovksy followed the holiday-themed crowds to formal dinners, cruise boat parties, baseball games, and watched them try to stay cool in the Missouri heat while decked out in red-velvet robes. They showed off their North Pole tattoos and swiftly comforted children they came across who are “believers”.
For the less Christmas-spirited, Discover Santa can get a bit eerie. “After five days in Branson, I’ve learned that Santas who are too on can be unsettling, especially if you’re trapped in an elevator with a dozen of them,” writes Mary Meehan for the National Geographic feature.
It’s a fascinating photo essay that continues Litovsky’s work of examining social performances and group interactions in both public and private spaces. She’s an award-winning photojournalist who fuses her bachelor degree in psychology with a visual interest in the uncanny. Previous photography projects include shooting a debutante ball for New York Magazine and the Westminister Dog Show for Esquire.
Find more of Dina Litovsky’s photography on her online portfolio.