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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Images of Life: Then and Now

From a series titled Reflections by award-winning photographer, Tom Hussey:

Hussey2

It immediately brings a smile to my face - the man recalling his younger self in a moment of pride. It's been many years since then and now he seems pleased with the journey and comfortable in his old age.

Here's another of an old woman, obviously with some amount of debility now, contemplating her youthful self:

Hussey3

I had seen these (and their companion images) some time ago and I would have thought I'd shown them to you in Interesting Stuff on a Saturday. If I did, I can't find them and yesterday TGB reader Margie sent me a link to the series with this note that she has graciously allowed me to publish:

”My daughter sent me this today. Am I overreacting if I find it patronizing and offensive?”

I tried, but I can't see these Photoshopped images in that light. I think they are beautiful and in addition, are similar to my blog banner above expressing "time goes by" and here's what it looks like.

After I emailed Margie with that thought, she wrote back:

”I think my problem is that the posers seem (to me) to be valued only for who they were, and not for who they are now. I agree, though, that the concept is appealing and of course please do quote me; I'd like to see what other readers think.”

So let's do that. First, the website of photographer and Photoshopper Tom Hussey tells us this:

”Sometimes we need photography to create a complex interplay between reality and illusion.”

Well, I suppose to go along with that you need to believe that one's youthful self is now an illusion. Or would that be vice versa? Here is another image of an old, now pot-bellied man confronting his firefighter past:

Hussey4

You can see larger sizes of these images and the rest of the series of 10 beginning here.

Go visit and then come back and tell us how you interpret the photographs.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Night Thought


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

These are amazing. As a grown old man myself, the last phone of the firefighter nearly undid me. I think someone is chopping onions nearby. Thanks for an awesome share!

I don't think these are patronizing at all. I see them as an example of how I see myself most of the time-not as the outer shell but what I still am inside. Not that I want to pretend to be younger but that I am so much more than what people see. I think everyone is like that.

For goodness sake! Get over being old, relax and enjoy it. I often say to younger folks: Old age is worth waiting for.

I think I understand Margie's concern, although to me the photos are sensitive and heartstoppingly beautiful. I believe I get what Margie might be feeling--because I sometimes get that feeling when I look at obituaries. Very often the photo used is one from when the person was young, vital and beautiful. (Even when they died at a very advanced age). When I see those photos in obituaries, I always wonder--is this (their 30's perhaps) "the best" they they thought they were?? Did none of the other ages matter? Why do obituaries continually use a young beautiful picture instead of the more accurate older one? Well, these are things I have pondered. In the case of this photographer, however, I think he treated the concept with dignity. ....What his photos seem to say is that despite the remarkable outer changes...we have the same (younger) person inside.

I found the photos intriguing, and not a bit offensive. The actors appeared pensive in most cases. That's much the way I feel when looking at an old yearbook or family photo.

Celeste...
A small point of actuality: the subjects of obits do not select the accompanying photos. They are usually selected by family members and in the case of well-known people, selected by the newspapers obituary writer or photo department.

So the photos are almost never a reflection of how the dead person wants to be seen or remembered, but instead, that of family members and journalists.

For a visual treat, continue looking at this photographer's 'album.'

These are wonderful photos and so original.

After viewing each photo several times, I decided that the older person appears to be viewing their reflection as they see themselves - at their perceived best (whatever that might mean for each one). Lovely and thought provoking, but also sad that we don't view our older selves as our best.

I had some of Sidney's reaction, perhaps because at 66 I like how I look now more than I liked most of my previous visual iterations. I don't know if I'd feel that way if I perceived my image as showing me disabled. I might; and I might not. Old people's appearance contains so much lived life ...

These make me think ... that's okay.

Liked the series very much; it brought tears to my eyes. I was especially struck by the image of the aide, the elderly woman and her younger white, starched self peering over the two in the mirror. As an aide, myself, I have had the experience of working with retired nurses, who in an earlier time might have been my superior. At 62, I also have felt the ageism of younger people, who seem to feel that I don't move fast enough for them I think that with ageism, like any stereotype we need to take the time look inside the person to encounter what they are really like- their hopes and dreams.

First, I think the photographer, Tom Hussey, is extremely talented and I looked at the slide show of his work all the way to the end.

I noticed that most of the elders in the photos are smiling as they visualize their young selves. I do not find it patronizing. I can imagine many things the old person might be thinking. But the one that speaks to me is, "I was once young and attractive and, by gosh, I have great memories and I am still here."

This is such a compelling, thought provoking post. It really made me look into myself to think about my feelings on aging. I can't help but wish that my physical self was 20 years younger, but I prefer my mental self now, minus the forgetfulness, that is.

I loved these even though they made me sad. I wish that every young person who makes disparaging comments towards Boomers who need to just "get out of the way" would look at these.

I think the photos aren't how the subjects wish they were, but a reflection of who they still are -- on the inside. The irony, the reality, is that we go through our days thinking and feeling on the inside like the person we've always been -- and it's that look into the mirror that reminds us how much we've changed on the outside.

Interesting to contemplate what we might be saying if the pictures were reversed and showed young people looking into the mirrors and seeing old people ...

I don't see anything patronising or offensive in these photos but there is something poignant and nostalgic about them. Apart from one, I didn't get a sense of regret about the aging process. The one with the older woman in a nightie with a nurse waiting with a zimmer frame moved me the most. It is as if the "patient" is remembering her vitality as a nurse and wondering how she wound up here and now needing help. I think because this picture is related to dependancy during illness I feel the most disturbed.

I loved these photos and I agree wholeheartedly with every word that Stefani said.

Thank you Ronni and all the readers who commented. Your insights have been of great value--I learned something about myself today.

My first response to the photos was "right, this is Who I Was. Big deal." But...not so fast. After reading the responses and studying the photos more closely, I've realized that the better response would be "This is who I've been." A tense shift makes all the difference. The first is simple past. The second is present perfect (o lovely phrase!) and transforms the experience into the continuum that life truly is.

I wrote yesterday of my unlovely adventure with California social services. Now I'm wondering if that disillusioning experience has distorted other aspects of my thinking.

I'll have to fix that. Thank you everyone.

Well, I absolutely LOVE the photos. It's not that I have no sadness about aging and looking old, but that I am grateful to have been allowed these later years to enjoy my writing, photography and 5 great-grands, as well as the next-to-last item on my bucket list--my precious Amber kitty. I and the other women in my writing group (aged 68-88) are all writing our obituaries, and I plan to suggest the photo to go along with mine--one of me having a Hell of a good time, probably on our famed Walkway Over the Hudson. When I see old pictures on obituaries, I wish they had included that AND one taken recently, so I would know if I knew them by look and not by name. Great post topic, Ronni

I found them lovely! Each of us is an amalgam of all of our previous 'selves', and I see this as a reminder that an older person is not just an 'old person', but an interesting individual with an individual history which has made them who they are today.

Apart from being great photographs, what I find interesting is the space between the real person and the image ... so much life and energy in there, so many stories ... the connections - and how lucky we are if we get to live a long life. Thanks for sharing.
Reminds me when I teach students I talk about our physical ageing as linear but our mental ageing is another story!!
Cheers Ralph (Australia)

They're Rockwellian. I loved them, but they made me sad. For all that I do to celebrate the good in this part of my life, one can't deny there is loss. At the same time it's a reminder to treat elders with more respect. Just lovely.

Beautiful photos! For me, they all speak of how fortunate one is to life a long life and spend time to reflect on it. In looking back at my rich and fulfilling life, I often say, "You've come a long way baby!"
Susan Joyce
http://www.lullabyillusion.com

And I call this time of my life, (78) The Bittersweet Season...
I've always been fascinated by before and after pictures. These are wonderful!

These photos are hauntingly beautiful. I see pride and accomplishment in the eyes of these seniors looking at their younger selves.

I also see strength, determination.

Seniors looking back, knowing there is time ahead to plan other goals, give back to the next generation, using all their collective wisdom.

Excellent photos.

Never could get these photos to show up on my screen--too bad! Like many other responders, I probably would have had mixed feelings about them. As much as I work on "acceptance" of getting old, I don't like it! I'm grateful for the extra years with my wonderful husband and for the fact that we're both essentially in good health. Still, I resist the limitations that an ageist society tries to place on me as an older woman, and the fact that I must admit: some of them are actually based in fact. I don't look like I did 15 years ago at 60, I'm not working F/T anymore, I must consider such things as having DNR orders and a POLST handy and how I'm going to exit this world. How great is all this? Not very!

Well, I loved this series of photos, but kept wondering about the genesis of the portfolio. Were they actors? Were the people in the mirrors actually their younger selves or was it all contrived? I searched a bit and found this:

"Commercial advertising photographer Tom Hussey photographed an award winning campaign for Novartis' Exelon Patch, a prescription medicine for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia. The highly conceptual photographs depicted an older person looking at the reflection of their younger self in a mirror."

I must say, that gives me pause.

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