The power dynamics between the sexes and the aesthetic representation of genders, I have noticed, unfortunately, are still very much determined by reproductive capacity. Deep down, in our unconscious minds, we continue to equate the usefulness of an individual with their ability/willingness to have children. This is why when rich old men way into their 50s and 60s marry supermodels in their 20s and 30s, nobody says anything. Whereas when a woman dates a man even 5 or 7 years younger, eyebrows are immediately raised. Not only that, as women go beyond their fertile years, they simply vanish from billboards and screens, often treated as though they are less than human.
It was for these reasons that I found London-based photographer Edo Zollo’s series “Beauty in Older Women” fairly daring. Hoping to bring some diversity into visual culture, Edo captured a number of women over 65, a bracket that is either invisible or presented as frail and ill grandmas. The project aims to give a positive view of ageing, keeping in mind that older women have much life experience, insight, wisdom and a sense of understanding to share and offer.
Edo writes: “Getting old: maybe beauty treatments can delay the ageing process, but we can’t avoid it, it is a fact of life. Intrigued by women getting older and losing their ‘sexy’ status in the eyes of the opposite sex and others, I set out to challenge people’s perceptions. The project celebrates gorgeous women over 65. The photos challenge the stereotyped view of ageing women as unattractive and ‘past it’.”
79-year-old participant Hazel says: “I’m doing something I have never done before. At my age, you have done most things, what a joy to find yourself involved in a new experience!” Another one, Margaret, 67, suggests: “Do not accept society’s evaluation! Be proud of who you are, expect to be noticed and look for attention. We deserve it and no matter who we are, we have contributed and should not be ignored or set aside.”
Edo is mostly known for his street photography. He won a British Photography Award in 2019 in this category.
I am still alive and looking for another challenge. I would like other women my age to see how it is possible to change your life completely in one year. Do it gradually, start a new interest or hobby, lose some weight, wear younger styles (they come in larger sizes to start with), change your hairstyle. Practice wearing stilettos again, ditch the tights, wear stockings again, it’s like a naughty secret! (Don’t even think of ‘thermals’ for winter, wearing and feeling the silk gives you a glow and a smile! Just have fun.)
Those who have gone, let them have peace, those that have wronged you and shown no remorse will live to understand the sadness they caused. Live one day at a time, be happy, play music, do a bit of dancing in the day, nibble chocolate little treats are good. Get out more. It is difficult to start with but oh so worth it.
My image has changed in the past year from an unhappy overweight person, alone most of the time and grieving. To a woman who socialises more, takes interest in fashion again, dumped the old clothes and wearing smaller fitted dresses. Feeling alive and energetic, taking chances, meeting different people.
I want to challenge the idea that we are ‘past it’. The thoughts I have are no different really from when I was in my late teens to early 20s, so why not see what you are capable of. Being naughty feels so good, lose your inhibitions, it may be your last chance. Don’t mind laughing at yourself.
I would like to think that the exhibition of images of older women will make people aware that we are not ‘invisible’. Images of younger women, and men of all ages, are everywhere. Older men are revered and have status whereas older women are ignored. Perhaps this exhibition of older women in a stripped down environment and state will help to change the public’s perception.
Do not accept society’s evaluation! Be proud of who you are, expect to be noticed and look for attention. We deserve it and no matter who we are, we have contributed and should not be ignored or set aside.
I am cool with who and what I am. I love my life, I know how lucky I am and I wear that every day.
I’m taking part in this project to encourage older women that age is to be embraced rather than feared, wrinkles and all. We women do have a place, importance and beauty and to have the courage to voice our feelings. We were part of the pioneers to give women their rights, let’s keep moving forward not using age as an excuse not to do exciting things.
I attempt a smart casual look. My hair is very important in the way I see myself, have not yet given into the grey! I have in my wardrobe a very large collection of scarves, my favourite accessory. Flat shoes and boots have replaced the killer heels in the last five years. I can still wear skinny jeans and I do try to exercise regularly and watch my weight.
The greatest nourishment is family and wonderful friends. I feel very blessed.
You know, I have never thought of age or image. I spent my life entertaining people and now pass that talent on to my students, hopefully with success.
Old age is not a cumbersome burden, but a valued resource. Maturity and the experience of life are to be highlighted in later life, and the beauty will come along with it. Life has a lot to offer when one has the freedom of old age.
I feel great about my image and am quite “young at heart”. Especially when I get compliments from total strangers, about how young I look and they find difficult to believe my age. This gives me encouragement to tell other women of my age, that life does not end when you retire. I didn’t think I could be photographed in central London at this stage of my life, how wonderful is that!
The message I would give to women of my age is, to keep up to the mark, mentally and physically and feel good about yourself. Make the best of what you have, keep busy, enjoy what you can afford. There’s so much to see and do wherever you live. Enjoy your friends, and have fun!
As you get older you have to accept the next stage of the ageing process…So you have to change your style, and adjust. I am happy to be who I am and enjoy not looking my age by wearing clothes that suit my shape, a bright lipstick, mascara and comfortable shoes! I am inspired by my friends who all look fabulous in their 70s.
Long may I have the energy to enjoy becoming an even older woman!