For some time now, I have been nurturing the idea that “aging” will be the theme of my last assignment. It seems as though I feel the urge to make a deep reflection about how my life is facing a new station, time to reflect about existence and expectations. A kind of vital testament, as Beethoven did in Heiligenstadt.
For this research I tried to collect information about authors that had treated “aging” or any derivate issues from a photographic perspective: Last days, months or days of life, aging in prison, ancient body and health are some of the aspects featured in the photographic series that I found. Excepting Julien Germain’s series, almost all the projects depict old age very explicitly, putting the human figure at the center of the story, (Phillip Toledano also points his view along the little material world of his father). I find very interesting the way on which old people seem to reduce his existence to very few and essential possesions, as though they were taking consciousness of the temporality of possessions.
My Aging Father’s Decline: A Son’s Photo Journal:
For three years, the American photographer Phillip Toledano recorded his father’s final years. A close and emotional glimpse not deprive of certain sense of humour. I think is not a very nostalgic view, and although there are some emotive and painful moments, the mood of the work is quite positive: a kind of tribute and grateful view of his father life. The project does not only include portraits, but in some pictures, the use of objects serve to depict memories, feelings and the absence of the he passed away.
Briony Campbell: The dad project
Similar approach to the previous one, the photographer is directly involved within the narrative of a story that tell the last days of her father: she is acting both as a photographer and as a playing role in the drama.
Photographing the suffering of the people is always a delicate question because the presence of the photographer invades the privacy of the person and his right to intimacy, and therefore documenting the death of a person could be considered that goes beyond the red line, which explains the doubts and hesitations expressed by Campbell while she was planning the project.
Alex Rotas: The ‘New Ageing Narrative’:
Alex Rotas’ portfolio includes several series of photographs which feature senior sportsmen and women in action: athletics, hockey, squash… She also recorded old people doing gardening, exercising in retirement communities and so on … Rotas is not only a photographer, but a writer and a speaker, very engaged herself with the promotion of positive and healthy attitudes among elder people.
This photographer has two works about old people with very different mood. The first one “The Three” is a long-term photo documentary about a senior love triangle: Jeanie (81), Will (84) and Adina (91) are bound by their relationship which gives them a certain feeling of freedom as counterpart from the solitude experienced in the care center where they used to live. The singularity of the situation allows Kosofsky to explore the internal conflicts of this relationship, that has its ups and downs. The project “This existence” is more depressing, because it deals with the last two years of the existence of Rosie who battles cirrhosis of the liver. Although very moving, the project puts the accent in the painful experience of Rosie and her relationship with her husband, 20 years younger than her.
The work of this Italian photographer pivots between photography and painting, because his pictures are strongly manipulated to achieved a visual effect that strengthen the facial features of elder people: “I am intrigued by the signs, lines, points, which enrich our cutis year after year and testify all the changes of our lives.”
Jessica Earnshaw: Aging in prison
After a three months research the American photographer Jessica Earnshaw spent six days in the Maine State Prison to document the life of elder inmates; she wrote an article that was published by the National Geographic; She became an insider, shadowing a group of older prisoners and showing scenes that any old people usually experience (personal care and hygiene, health issues) but from the point of view of living in prison. In almost all the pictures the human figure appears, so I could say that the approach of the author is quite literal. In general every picture is perfectly contextualize to depict the oppressive feeling of the prison (walls, small rooms, guardians, uniforms, etc..)
I think the mood of the work, despite the deprivation of freedom, is quite positive, showing how the conditions and life expectances of the inmates in the countries where the human rights are guaranteed.
Julian Germain: ‘for every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness’
Amazing project which I already covered in a previous log entry. The project on itself is not about aging, although the character featured on it is an old person; the whole series covers 8 years of the life of Charles Snelling, presenting with an exquisite sensibility a world made of his simple and care belongings.
Kaylynn Deveney: ‘The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings’
Kaylynn Deveney has two very different approaches to the theme. The first is “The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings” in which the author narrates the life experience of an elderly widower through the activities of his daily life. The work has some resemblance to Julian Germain’s project “For Every Minute You Are Angry, You Lose Sixty Seconds Of Happiness,” though Deveney’s work accompanies each photograph with a subject’s own text that allows for a closer reading to the reality and experience of the old man.
The character of her second project “Edith and Len” is completely different: it presents us with a vision of the most depressed and self-sacrificing old age, this elder couple between the four walls of a room where there are not many options but to wait patiently for death.
When You Are Old (William Buttler Yeats)
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.