The challenge of creating ‘alternative’ images of ageing: lessons from a project with older women

Richards, N. , Warren, L. and Gott, M. (2012) The challenge of creating ‘alternative’ images of ageing: lessons from a project with older women. Journal of Aging Studies, 26(1), pp. 65-78. (doi:10.1016/j.jaging.2011.08.001)

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This article analyses two participatory projects designed to engage older women in the creation of new imagery of old age. While it was hoped that this imagery would offer an ‘alternative’ to mainstream depictions or indeed offer older women a presence amidst the much noted absence of images of older women, the brief left it open to the professional photographers recruited to the project and to the participants themselves to direct the representations. In recent years, critical gerontologists have repeatedly called for artistic challenges to conventional ways of imaging old age. By working with two groups of older women, the intention was that ‘ordinary’ older women (non-celebrity, non-artist) could be included in that challenge and imagery created which would show the lives of older women honestly. In the case of the two projects described here, professional photographers were enlisted to give visual form to the women's views on ageing and their lives as older women and deliver ‘exhibition quality’ images. Important factors in determining the types of images produced included the artistic style and preferences of the photographers and their respective ages, both of which are explored here. In-depth analysis of some of the images produced shows that while they did not succumb to the usual ‘heroes of ageing’/‘bodily decline’ binary (Featherstone & Hepworth, 2005), they did not escape other dualistic categorisations. The images can be broadly viewed as nostalgic/melancholic or humorously carnivalesque. This finding is evidence of how difficult it is to create ‘alternative’ images of older women which defy established modes of categorisation.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Richards, Dr Naomi
Authors: Richards, N., Warren, L., and Gott, M.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Journal Name:Journal of Aging Studies
ISSN (Online):1879-193X

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