‘I feel beautiful’: Photography project celebrates the glamour of older Australians

Jun 22, 2023
This NSW photographer's captures the elegance, resilience, and wisdom of seniors aged 80 and over. Source: Instagram @labellavitaphotographynsw

A NSW photograph project is redefining the concept of timeless glamour by embracing the beauty and resilience of older Australian women.

This project, led by photographer Shannon Smith, which she calls The Golden Age Portraits, shines a spotlight on the ageless elegance and captivating stories of seniors aged 80 and over.

Speaking to 9News, Smith says these portraits are an “opportunity to preserve the memories of a generation that really didn’t have much but really made the most of the situations that they were placed in.”

The project was never about the money for Smith, saying she “didn’t want anyone to miss out purely because their family wasn’t in the situation to be able to pay for it.”

“That’s why I just took that out of the equation altogether,” she said.

For the Lake Macquarie-based professional, The Golden Age Portraits is a chance to share the stories of people with “so much substance” which makes the work “the most soul-satisfying work you could do”.

“They have lived through some incredible times and they’ve had so little,” she said.

“If we don’t document it, that is gone once they leave this earth.”

One of Smith’s clients, 93-year-old Theresa, found refuge in Australia after escaping the Spanish Civil War in 1960.

Having faced numerous challenges throughout her life, she expressed that being a part of this photography project was a rare occasion where she felt like a princess.

“I feel beautiful,” she said.

But Smith isn’t the only photographer breaking the narrative that women over 65 are either invisible or frail, ill grandmas.

In 2019, London-based photographer Edo Zollo launched his series Beauty in Older Women with the aim to give a positive perspective on ageing, keeping in mind that older women possess a wealth of life experience and wisdom.

According to Zollo, “maybe beauty treatments can delay the ageing process, but we can’t avoid it, it is a fact of life. Intrigued by women getting older and losing their ‘sexy’ status in the eyes of the opposite sex and others, I set out to challenge people’s perceptions. The project celebrates gorgeous women over 65. The photos challenge the stereotyped view of ageing women as unattractive and ‘past it’.”

Earlier this year, New York-based artist Marilyn Minter set out to break the taboo around senior sexuality by curating a stunning photo series that features men and women aged 70 and over.

The series showcases an intimate and rarely-seen side of sex and relationships through erotic and colourful imagery. The seniors are captured in playful, loving moments of pleasure, engaging in hugging, kissing, and caressing each other.

“There’s so much contempt for elder sex. Even one of the models that I worked with said, ‘Who wants to see all these?'” Minter told CNN.

“My whole thought process going into it was that we’re pioneers.

“Nobody’s ever shot elder people affectionately, and with any kind of elegance. And that was my goal — to make them look very desirable.”

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