These past two winters I have been working on a personal project called "50 Shades." It was born out of a desire to empower an individual's aging process. Over the years I have come to expect the negative comments I hear from people about their looks. Not many are comfortable with themselves; especially in front of the camera. Once you point a camera at someone, it immediately causes their insecurities to surface, and more often than not, they share them with me. These insecurities include things such as "You can take away the wrinkles around my eyes, right?" And "I never take a good picture...my nose is just too big." And the comments on editing out the greys on their head, making a double chin disappear in post, or fixing crooked teeth. I've heard it all.
I'm part of an industry that celebrates youth and beauty. But who determines this definition of beauty that we are bombarded with on a daily basis? My experience with photographing people sometimes leaves me sad. The negative comments I hear always seem like such a surprise to me because I truly don't see what they do. But if I turn around and put myself in the same position, I hear myself making disclaimers about my appearance too. There is always some type of spark in someone, and that is ageless. It is what I always try to capture in my photographs; a genuine, authentic part of them that has been with them since they were born. I am not concerned with outward appearances because I am always looking to capture what is on the inside.
Aging is an inevitable part of life, and as I have grown older I realize just how quickly the years pass, but how I always assume I am the same age. It's almost as if time stopped for me when I was younger, and although my body is aging, the spark inside me is not. It seems like it will forever stay at a certain age. I had never given it much thought until I was chatting about the aging process with one of my "50 Shades" subjects who was approaching 80. They mentioned how their inner self doesn't match their outer. That their body is failing, but they still don't feel a day over 16. What a dichotomy! Which may explain why people fight the natural aging process: because their outer appearance just doesn't match the inside.
I'm two subjects away from having the full 50 shades, and each and every person who participated had something to say about their experience with aging and their hair. I got to see that spark in all of them, and even after I heard all of the disclaimers about what they don't like about their appearances, I was able to capture them in a moment where they could truly see themselves and be happy.
There is something beautiful about embracing age and the changes that happen. It's a rite of passage that should be celebrated, respected, and admired. I'm excited to conclude this project and take it to the next phase. You can see the full gallery here.