This project combines traditional portraiture with conceptual images created from conversations with women over fifty, and my impressions of them. When viewed together, the pairings more completely depict each woman’s essence. This project challenges the idea of beauty fading as women age- making room for new definitions of beauty.
There is a book for new mothers….”What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. There is no such manual for women as they enter their fifties. In the not too distant past, after fifty, you would be considered too old to find a partner, start a business, or change your career. So, what to expect?
Turning 50, I started feeling more invisible to the world, watching as younger women were noticed and helped first in a store, and how the eyes of men quickly passed over me to look at my 20-something daughters. Everyone talked about how hard it was for a woman to find a new job after 50. At the same time, I felt more confident, more empowered to go after what I wanted. I spoke up when the younger me wouldn’t have, making sure my opinion was heard when the younger me would just agree with the crowd.
I started exploring how to express my feelings about being over 50 conceptually. I wondered if these conflicting feelings were shared by other women, so I started asking them, finding that many other women had complicated and conflicting feelings as well.
I asked these women to sit for a portrait, to make visible what society deems invisible, and to share their thoughts on the best and worst parts of being over 50. Just as a portrait shows one self to the world, what they shared with me during our time together was more layered than what was said. One common thread throughout was the acknowledgement that getting older meant not caring so much what other people said. Being comfortable with choices they had made. Not having to pretend to be something they were not.
This period of life brings with it so many opportunities for new experiences that were not always open to our predecessors and I have found it fascinating how each woman I have photographed has forged their own path amidst the general commonality of experience.