Q&A with photographer Karsten Thormaehlen.
Do you think how old you are, is relevant to how you think about yourself?
The first thing what comes to my mind answering this question is the Socratic paradox: "I know that I know nothing". I really have a feeling the more I listen to the news, read about science, physics and astronomy, that I’m kind of loosing the overview and becoming very insecure about what’s right and wrong, and what makes the most sense in life. When I was in my early twenties I thought I’d seen it all, I thought I knew what to live for, but now – half a lifetime later – I almost feel the opposite.
Do you think how old you are, changes people think about you?
I guess I’m one of those "lucky" people who always get that compliment of 'Oh, really, you’re over fifty already? You look much younger!'. But I think that’s because of my profession as a photographer/artist. I always approach a shoot with an attitude of wanting to be buddies with the people who will sit in front of my camera, to ease up the vibe and make them forget that they might be shy or bias – or both.
What is your biggest stress in your life at the moment? Do you think it this is age specific?
"I think it’s very important to enable the youngest generation by education in history, ethics, science and philosophy, to differentiate between right and wrong. We’re all part of a society which is by definition a collection of different individuals, including older and younger people."
The most unpleasant things I have to deal with at the moment are not age specific at all! These things could happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone - no matter if you’re 20 or 90 years old. There are some minor health problems which are related to my personal lifestyle, which is in need of improvement, but those are also not necessarily age related if you ask me.
What is the thing which makes you happiest at the moment?
What makes me really happy is to spend quality time with my loved ones, my dog, my friends. But this haven't changed since I was a boy! I also like what I am doing professionally. I love to think about new projects or the continuation of existing ones, doing research, finding people and finally get to meet and portrait them.
Do you like spending time with people of other ages?
If you look at my work you may have the answer to this question already. Mostly I get inspired by people who love life. My books are about life and living – not about aging! I meet and photograph all kind of people, all ages. But somehow its what I capture in older and very old faces, that seem to what people like to see in my work. Maybe it gives people hope, maybe they become less afraid of aging, of losing their beauty, their attractivity? Some are worried that old age means loneliness, sickness, depression, austerity or poverty. It’s not that I’m disregarding all of these aspects in my work, they are part of my it too, it’s just that I think we all need to get a more optimistic outlook into our own future.
"When I was in my early twenties I thought I’d seen it all, I thought I knew what to live for, but now – half a lifetime later – I almost feel the opposite."
What do you think are the biggest challenges we face across all ages?
I think it’s very important to enable the youngest generation by education in history, ethics, science and philosophy, to highlight the difference between right and wrong. We’re all part of a society which is by definition a collection of different individuals, including older and younger people. In my opinion proceeding inequality is one of the biggest problems of our time.
What do you think the benefit is of people of different ages spending time together?
It is scientifically proven that people tend live longer if they don’t suffer from loneliness. People can be surrounded by many people but still can feel very lonely. In my opinion we have to be a mix of generations.
What can you learn from people who are older?
When one meet an older person you almost look in your own future...
"Picasso said when he was in his Eighties, that he had spent a lifetime to be able to paint like when he was a child."
What can you learn from people who are younger?
In younger people, we might realize what we’ve lost. But instead of regretting, we should feel motivated, learn from it and try to recover our losses. It’s still not too late. Picasso said when he was in his Eighties, that he had spent a lifetime to be able to paint like when he was a child.
What do you think is the benefit of a society where our age does not define us?
There would be much more time to deal with real problems!
You can buy Karsten't wonderful book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Aging-Gracefully-Portraits-People-Over-ebook/dp/B01M8QQMT4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481660738&sr=8-1&keywords=thormaehlen+aging+gracefully
"My books are about life and living – not about aging"
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