Producing images that didn’t seem to be out there - Interview with Alex Rotas
At our 'Age Does Not Matter' Festival in September 2016, we featured the wonderful work of Alex Rotas, in our photography exhibition. Alongside her portraits of elite sports men and women, we thought we'd get her thoughts and so we asked her a few questions about age.
Do you think age matters?
Less and less, in fact, as I get older myself. It’s a frightening prospect when you’re young, because of all the negative connotations around ageing (which we must change!). But when you find yourself actually in the ‘old’ (or at least ‘older’) category yourself, you realise nothing much has changed at all. You still want the same things everyone else wants: people to love and who love you, something interesting to do, things to look forward to, new stuff to learn, new horizons to breach.
Has this photo-series changed you and how I view age?
"I’m always on the lookout for role-models who can shine a beacon for me and show me how to live the decades ahead."
It’s made me much less fearful of the decades ahead and much more aware of the fact that you can set new goals for yourself, right up until you’re 100 (and why stop there?) Plus I’ve taken up running myself, as a direct result – and I love it! I’m very slow but it’s opened up a whole new community of lovely people and I, too, have now got new running goals for myself. I never would have thought I’d be doing this, before I started taking photos of older, elite athletes.
And now that they know I’m also running, I absolutely love it when they ask me how my ‘training’ is going! My running is, in reality, very haphazard as well as very slow, but I get a real kick out of thinking that actually, I’m training!
Describe the project and your motivation for doing it.
I used to teach visual culture at university. By the time I retired at 60, I’d already started looking at the media imagery used in sporting contexts. I’ve always been sporty myself and I was interested in the different ways that male and female elite sportspeople are photographed and portrayed. So, when I hit 60, I thought I’d take a look at how older sportsmen and women were represented. It was just out of curiosity, really.
I knew there were plenty of us out there, carrying on taking part in the sports we love through our 7th, 8th and 9th decades. To my surprise, a web search produced no results at all. There just didn’t seem to be any imagery in the public domain of older sportsmen and women. That was when I thought, “wow! This needs to be put right.” I suppose I was looking for a new project to capture my imagination and suddenly there it was. Light bulb moment! I’d start to produce the images that didn’t seem to be out there. Then I remembered I didn’t know anything about photography. But that made it even better in a way as this would be something else new for me to get stuck into!
I’ve always loved being a beginner and feeling I can look forward to a future in which I learn new skills or just broaden my horizons, really. So here it all was: I’d learn how to take photographs and I’d learn about new sports events and endeavours, meet new people. I mean, what’s not to love about that?
"Light bulb moment! I’d start to produce the images that didn’t seem to be out there. Then I remembered I didn’t know anything about photography. But that made it even better in a way as this would be something else new for me to get stuck into!"
How old are you?
67, according to my passport. A lot of the time I feel about 8.
How old are the people in your project?
I tend to focus on people over 60 and I’m particularly interested in photographing sportsmen and women in their 80s and 90s, who still compete on the world stage, in the sport they love. I think that’s because, now that I’m 67 myself, 60 no longer seems ‘old’ to me.
I’m always on the lookout for role-models who can shine a beacon for me and show me how to live the decades ahead. That sounds a bit selfish, but it’s in the mix too. I’m looking for personal examples as well as just wanting to get images out in the public domain. I really want to help shift people’s perceptions of what it means to get ‘old’ and to be part of the conversation about what this whole ageing malarkey is all about. How I see it is that there may be challenges ahead, but there’s a lot of fun to be had too.
"How I see it is that there may be challenges ahead, but there’s a lot of fun to be had too."
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