A beautiful and energetic woman in her late 60s, who dances twice a week and earned her hometown’s Volunteer of the Year award in 2018, participated in a photo project about women 65 and older. She enjoyed every minute of the photo shoot and she was eagerly awaiting the photos. When she saw them, she lamented that the photos showed too much gray hair, sun spots, and wrinkles. Several of her female friends confirmed that she did look old on the photos.
When I saw the photos, I felt as though I was flipping through the pages of Vogue. The images were visually rich, and the woman’s true essence radiated through the photos. I thought, “When I grow up I want to be just like her.” The woman in the photos is, in fact, my mother, and I told her to find new friends.
Her experience inspired me: “Are there people who choose to redefine aging and what it may look like? Who are these pioneers who open the new frontiers of transitioning from one period of their life to another with wisdom, joy, and self-compassion? What can we, the next generations, learn from their experience?”
The Aging With Edge, or AWE, participants are women and men of different ethnic backgrounds between the ages of 60 and 74 from the greater Washington DC metropolitan area who were nominated by their friends and family as role models in aging. These individuals are not celebrities; they are our parents, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and fellow metro riders. Yet they differ from many others because they view aging as an empowering transition.
The AWE Project builds on three elements:
· Visual—12 beautiful, professionally done black-and-white portraits invite visitors to powerfully connect with these pioneers in aging and focus not on looking young but on being timeless.
· Storytelling—hour-long interviews with the participants offer insights about making a choice—yes, it is a choice—to age on our own terms.
· Virtual—a new Augmented Reality in Arts technology allows visitors to use their smartphones to watch video interviews with the participants who share their thoughts on love, on ways to cultivate a deeper sense of self, and offer advice to the generations coming next. Download the free phone app called Artivive on Google Play and App Store.
About the project director
Jeanne Batalova is a creative disruptor and writer whose work is at the crossroads of personal transformation, spirituality, happiness, and humor. During the day, she is an immigration researcher, sociologist, and data storyteller. (Email: email@example.com)
About the photographers
Ben Amare, a Washington DC-based fashion and beauty photographer, has joined the project to bring to life the vivacious and spirited people behind the stereotypes of aging. Ben's favorite part about photography is directing. He loves making people comfortable and catching them in those genuine moments. Instagram: @benamarephoto
Diana Bodnarenco, a fashion photographer living in the Netherlands and Moldova, and stylist Lia Nichiforova captured Ludmila’s spirit in a photo shoot in June 2019. Instagram: @Aidonera and @Stylist_Zanoza