About a year ago, a photographer pal of mine told me about a movement that was happening across the country - photographing women over 40. Many photographers were using the idea as a sales tool to bring in business to their studios.
As 2020 started, I was turning 58 and ramping-up my photo studio to run full time. Feeling a kinship with other women in the second half of our lives, I decided to give the marketing idea a try. I placed an ad for my "50 Over 50 Project" and within 24 hours I had received 27 inquiries. Within a week I had booked all 50 participants, who paid a session fee in advance.
Of course, I was thrilled for the business, but I realized that something else was going on here – Women over 50 wanted to be seen. After much contemplation, and thinking about my own life, I realized that most women by this age are in their prime. They are strong, confident, successful, wise....but may not be feeling so great about how they look. Our culture of the young dismisses older women - most of us feel invisible. So why couldn't I highlight the beauty of women in their 50s and above? That became my motivation and obsession.
SO MUCH MORE THAN A PORTRAIT
I started working with a makeup artist, offering camera-ready makeovers, helping clients style their wardrobes, and coaching them through poses during the magazine-style photo session. I was giving them a model-for-a-day expereince. I love finding the beauty in every person that comes in front of my camera, and bringing out that "ah-ha" moment.
Yet, the documentary photog in me was also keenly interested in hearing the women's stories about their lives and what had brought them into their strength and wisdom in their 50s and above. The stories started with answering simple questions, having them offer words of advice to younger women. When I photographed 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Gitta, I wanted to also include hardships the women may have overcome that had made them stronger. Together, the text and images paint a beautiful tapestry of women from all walks of life, sharing their wisdom - and discovering their beauty and power through the process of participating.
I have been deeply moved by the transformational process that women have experienced being part of the project. They cry when they see their images, they feel beautiful again, valued, and have gained a renewed sense of self-value. This makes me so happy - to be able to give the experience of seeing one's self in images. I realize now that the project is so much bigger than me or my studio - it's about giving voice to an important, invisible group in our culture and showing them how beautiful they are through fashion-inspired imagery.
Santa Cruz's weekly paper, Good Times, wrote an amazing article about the project in September, which you can read HERE.
Needless to say this has become a "hot ticket," and word of mouth has spread like wild fire. Everyone wants to particpate!
50 OVER 50 FOR 2020
Check out the online gallery of the 2020 participants, as we count down the 50 women of the year. The list will be complete by December.
THE FUTURE OF THE 50 OVER 50 PROJECT
The whole experience of creating the 50 over 50 Project has been so inspiring that I will be doing it again. I will start photographing the 2021 Project in February of 2021. If you would like to participate please read all about the project HERE and then fill out the submission form. Half of the 2021 slots are already booked - everyone wants to join the fun - so book now to be part of the hottest ticket in town!
My hope was to have an exhibit after the completion of the 2020 project – to bring all the women, their friends and family, together to honor and celebrate them. The pandemic has made that impossible. But I hope by the end of 2021 I can make that happen, honoring both the 2020 and 2021 groups.
If you are or know, a woman of color who would like to participate but may not be able to afford to, we will be gifting several shoots in 2021 to those who qualify.
Come join us for a day you will never forget...and discover yourself in the process!