Aging GracefullySaturday, June 22, 2019
As a Latin American from Argentina having lived in Vancouver since 1975 I have attempted to adapt and modify my previously macho sentiments. But the painful process did not begin in 1975. My mother told me to fry my own eggs when I told her I did not like them with broken yolks. My Rosemary from 1968 on told me to hem my own jeans and sew on my buttons.
But my other views on women experience culture shock. When I asked my Argentine nephew why it was that there were large ads featuring women in bikinis showcasing toothpaste, he rapidly asked, “Are you gay?”
It would be impossible for me to explain to my Argentine family that I have a friend who is an over 6ft saxophone playing transgender woman.
But there are some opinions about women that are cemented in both cultures and especially now with our overblown celebrity cult.
I remember seeing the Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film Starship Troopers and being shocked at the perfect (for me almost robot-like/synthetic) look of Denise Richards. Since then a myriad of US celebrity women have taken up that mantle.
|Rosa 'Mary Magdalene' and a worse for wear Benjamin Britten 21 June 2019|
Even in this era of the Me Too Movement there is no equality when the looks of women are compared with that of men. Men don’t age. They gain character and toughness. Women age “gracefully”. Social media is full of pictures of middle-aged women in which friends and relatives post statements like , “looking good”(ugh!) or worse “still beautiful”. Nobody comments on pictures of men who may upgrade their avatar with a more recent photograph. Nobody will care, as they might be having in mind somewhere in their memory that image of the Marlboro Man.
Any classical music program or that of opera will feature photographs of the female singers taken perhaps after their “quince años”.
Not too long ago Adobe Photoshop came out with an innovation tool called Diffuse Glow. Since then women’s skin pores have gone the way of Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs. Bags have gone the way of the plastic ones.
As a young magazine photographer (it sort of ended when I was in my mid 50s) I was assigned to photograph young ballerinas or actresses. Women would call me up requesting I take “different” photographs when I tried to refer them to Sooter’s Studio.
|Rosa 'Susan Williams-Ellis' June 22 2019 Note the difference between the new bloom on the left and the later one.|
That has definitely ended in 2019. Such is the obsession of our time that women have to look perfect, that none will pose for me (even for portraits) as they are afraid of being exposed to some reality that does not compare to their own.
This is a shame. When I watch my Rosemary go for her bath her body is definitely not the one I first saw back in 1968. Rosmary makes no comment when I go to the bath because she is an old-fashioned and polite Canadian. While I am not fat my skin is beginning to prune up and I will soon have to invest in black turtle-neck sweaters. . If people ask and tell them I am practicing existentialism they will not understand. It was not only God that died in the 20th century, so did philosophy.
In my pursuit of the handsome (in my eyes) and the erotic (in my eyes) I did manage to photograph a 61 year-old Kay last year. I had photographed her when she was 21. This was special for me. It was thrilling and I applaud her courage.
In the next week I will be taking photographs of a 62 year-old woman who lives in Italy. I photographed her first in 1978 (make the calculation!). She has told me that she is more sure and proud of her body now than before. I am not sure exactly what she means or what she will show for my camera.
What will make our session (I hope many more) is that I have convinced her (suggestion taken immediately) to purchase a Manfrotto (a very good brand of photographic light stands and tripods) clamp so she can mount her smart phone to her tripod. Since she is a photographer she also has lights and reflectors.
I am not going to purchase a ticket to Italy in the next while. We will connect via Messenger. I will then use my digital Fuji X-E3 to take what I see on my CRT monitor. Via the sound we will be able to communicate.
But this is much different than having a model (and good friend) in my studio. There is much more collaboration as it is she who first decides where her phone is placed and what I see. For me to impose a little of my own style I will perhaps crop (in camera) the images that appear on my screen.
The whole process has particularly been in my mind post opening of our garden to the Vancouver Rose Society a few weeks back. The once-blooming roses are gone and those that will be remontant are in that in-between stage where spent blooms share space with a few new ones.
I have noticed that many roses, past their peak lose all their petals. Others deteriorate slowly. Those that do deteriorate slowly have a beauty in them that reminds me of the many women of that age that I know. There is one in particular, Rosa ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’ that will age to dark brown and not lose one petal. And of course that lovely English Rose, Rosa ‘Mary Magdalene’ goes from a flashy pink (you harlot, you!) to a virginal white.
I am placing these rose scans here and I hope this will reinforce some women that may see them that Photoshop is not the only solution.