Photographer Bob Stevens’ glorious new project dealing with the strength of over-55-year-old women was something that as soon as we saw it, we knew we had to publish. Below are Bob’s words of why he decided to do it, and what he learned from these amazing women.
The working title of this project was “Authenticity,” a word which I felt represented an emotional container of sorts to engage my subjects. In private conversations prior to the sittings, I asked each woman to be vulnerable when I photographed them, and we talked about what that meant.
What became immediately clear was that although these women had long careers in front of a camera, the prospect of posing in such a way created an intimacy which was palpable. They, as I have, experienced what it’s like to endure in an arena where the search seems to constantly be “what or who is new” and “what have you done lately.” Added to that, my request to appear without makeup of any kind seemed to open even more doors and stories.
I used one light and a fill card, with a mottled canvas backdrop as an homage to my idols from long ago, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. I asked each subject to pose with a semi-nude torso and draped with fabric in the style of classic art and sculpture. I wanted the environment to be intimate and promote connection.
As we talked more about what it felt like to be “getting older” in the business we are both in, a range of expressions and body language appeared which I found remarkable. I did not direct them about how to pose or use the fabric. On the contrary, I asked them to show me how they felt about the topic of aging and longevity, and we continued our dialogue as we co-created the images. The sittings lasted approximately 10-15 minutes each.
As they shared their thoughts and feelings, I was inspired to follow the still shoot with a series of video interviews to capture the nuances and stories I was so moved by. Schedules and commitments allowed for six of them to participate. On camera, I asked each subject the same questions and then encouraged them to elaborate from there. The questions simply started with “Who Are You?” Again, I did not direct them other than to occasionally ask for some elaboration on their responses, saying “Tell me a little more about that.”
This format allowed me to edit the piece with the end in mind of representing the voices of Woman. After cutting the piece together, it became obvious that the film should be titled “I Am” in honor of these authentic, vulnerable and courageous ladies who tell us, looking right in the camera, just who they are and something about the journeys which brought them to this moment in time.
All the photographs are by Bob Stevens and the copyrights owned by him.