Faces are not the focus in Anastasia Pottinger’s photos of people over 100 years old.
It’s the little details — the creases of their necks, the dimples in their cheeks, the wrinkles in their wrists — that she chooses to focus on.
“I want a more mysterious image to look at,” she said. “If you see the face, then you’re looking at someone and not looking into something. If I see just some old hands, I might be able to think about my grandmother.”
Viewers respond to these images because they bring back powerful memories of the older people in their own lives, she said.
The models that Pottinger photographed have expressed how happy they are that someone is showing them in a beautiful way, she said, and they hope that this project will change society's view of aging.
“At first they say: ‘Why would you want to do this? Why? I’m old. I’m ugly. This is not me anymore.’ And I can certainly relate to that or believe that you would feel that way,” Pottinger said. “But then they see the work and they are really proud to be a part of it.”
Pottinger began this project with a different presence of mind than her past ventures. She credits a mentor’s guidance to slow down, pay attention to everything in the frame, and be present.
“Those were really key things that I think had just started coming into place when I did the first shoot,” she said. “I think that really helped me make something more meaningful and more touching.”
The process of these pictures required time to establish trust and intimacy.
“I’m asking them to do something quite vulnerable that I myself might not be willing to do, so I have a huge level of respect for them and what they are willing to do,” Pottinger said.
Pottinger wants to communicate the true beauty and value of people over 100. The beauty is in the way the viewer is able to relate to the images and to “what time creates.”
That’s the name of her favorite image from the project — one of a woman’s torso with her breasts lying on her stomach. Pottinger has that displayed outside of her studio, and visitors often debate about what is in the photo.
“They will think, ‘Oh, it’s tree trunks,’ or ‘No, it’s something else,’ and I always pop out and say, ‘It is what you think it is,” Pottinger said. “It’s definitely breasts that you’re looking at.”
The reactions range from amazement at the beauty to dismay at the effects of age.
“I’m pretty bold and pretty outgoing, but now I feel like there’s more intention to it,” Pottinger said. “I don’t want to live with regrets, so I want to do everything that I can now. I would love to be 101 and be brave enough and courageous enough to bare it all. I want to be that bold when I’m 101.”
- Naomi Driessnack, Special to CNN