Do you have anything for me?

July 22, 2010
While working on Wearing Purple, where I turned my camera on the retired people of my hometown in Carrick, Co. Donegal, the idea of invisibility was a common thread in the conversations I had with the people I photographed. Some felt that since they are over 65 and retired, their status in society had been downgraded as such. Some of them commented on younger people not acknowledging them, often looking right past them.

For this work, my research begins at an important source of our collective obsession with youth – the fashion-advertising image. Most of us are obsessed with youth and avoiding the reality at all costs, which keep the advertising and cosmetics industries very happy. The advertising industry predominately targets a younger audience with younger skinner beautiful models, with fashion also geared to that genre. In my previous blog entry I introduced the question, ‘do older people abandon fashion, or does fashion abandon older people?’. in other words, are older people invisible also to the fashion industry?

I want to look nice too

I have no idea what the answer is. Perhaps it’s a comfort thing; perhaps it’s a case of no longer caring what anyone thinks; perhaps it’s because they can’t find stylish clothes ‘for their age’; perhaps it’s down to financial concerns. Either of these or a combination of these is possible for a lot of people, but even as I write this, I am reminded of some sharp dressed ladies in their 70’s with lots of style at a recent funeral I attended. Perhaps the idea of the uniform: the elastic skirt, cardigan, pullover, pants and so on, is something too that will be confined to history as older people refuse to conform to our societal norms. I created this survey for older people to complete – it’s 10 questions that attempt to draw some conclusions on the concept of the uniform in the older person’s closet.

I had a very interesting chat with a 64 year old woman today. We talked about how we sometimes think it’s OK to treat some of our older and most-alive demographic as children; about why we expect them to do certain things, to act a certain way, to avoid certain things and dress a certain way just because they’ve pushed on 5 or 10 years; and when they refuse to be pushed into that little box we make for them, why do we then label them as daft and ‘away with the fairies’? She also talked of another fascinating thing we as a society tend to do. We have this idea that as we get older, we adopt a completely new personality and become re-born. We’ve all heard the saying ‘God, didn’t he get very cranky in his old age’. Chances are he was a fairly cranky 30 and 40 year old too.

I talked about getting rid of this metaphorical box before, in relation to my work photographing older people. I want to use the idea of printed media, the glossy magazine, the Vogue’s and various other fashion shoots celebrating youth and promoting glamour, as the inspiration for giving older people a stage to look as beautiful and glamorous as their youthful counterparts. In the next few months, I will re-create fashion shots with older people, and in the process, address what we as a society perceive to be ‘beautiful’.

My darkroom is almost built, my studio, almost ready. So … film or digital …


One Response to “Do you have anything for me?”

  1. anne b flanagan Says:

    This will be a great exeption , when it is presented. Looking forwared to seeing the show in Sept/ Oct

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