Altered images of age - an interview with Jade Beall.
Jade’s mission is to show that there is not just one demographic about what is beautiful. To date her focus has been on mothers and children but the photograph of Gerry, 75, and Darwin, 70, posted online reached over 2 million people in just a few short days is changing all that for Jade. The Age of No Retirement talked with Jade about why she thought this image was touching so many people, her vision to show that age is not shameful and how we can shake up the media who are still holding on to the stereotypical images of ageing.
What is in the inspiration behind the picture of Gerry and Darwin?
When I finished my book, The Body of Mothers I did a survey and asked if I was going to do another book what you would people want. One option was the Body of Elders — and I got by far the biggest response to this. The seed was planted! And then a couple of months ago, I was approached by a couple who were celebrating their 50 year anniversary and they wanted to do nudes together, just for them. They wouldn’t share them, it was private but I showed a close couple of friends and they went, ‘wow’, and I knew it was the right time to make this happen. So, I posted a request on Facebook and a couple who had been following my work said, ‘we’ll do it’, and literally a few days later they were in my studio. And like my children and mothers series which started with one image, now everyone wants to get involved. I am so excited about where this will lead. The image of Gerry and Darwin shows that age is not taboo, not gross, not flawed, that love does not stop in your 70s and I can like my body as it changes and ages. It is very much in the beginning stage but I am looking forward to making my new work represent something magical and timeless.
What story do you hope these images are telling?
"Young people have said, ‘Oh this has given me some so much hope about getting older’ and ‘wow look at the love between Gerry and Darwin, I want some of that’."
The Elders are ‘yesssssss, we love it’ but it is also a lesson of rewriting age for younger people. I am 37 on Friday and I need role models. I need my story rewritten about what it means to grow older. Yes, this image is for the elders but it is also for all of us who are growing older.In America we tend to hide our elders. I have travelled to Africa where the elders are revered — I want to bring them back into the spotlight everywhere and not hide them away.
How have people reacted?
It has been amazing. What is interesting is I am used to Trolls — my images do push the boundaries, I do get hate mail from my mother and child images, of course it is far outweighed by the positive comments but the negative comments are there. But for the Gerry and Darwin images, I have been so wonderfully surprised about the almost 100% positive response. I have literally just had to delete a couple of messages, ’this is not what I want to see’ and, ‘keep this hidden’, really silly messages otherwise the response has just been extraordinary.
Has there been a different in how different people of ages have reacted?
"I do not photoshop, I tell the truth. There is nothing to hide. We can see how different we are — we don’t have to erase away the stories of our life. We should celebrate it."
There has been such a huge array of ages of people responding to the photograph. Young people have said, ‘Oh this has given me some so much hope about getting older’ and ‘wow look at the love between Gerry and Darwin, I want some of that’. And for older people, the response has been that it is so great to see the ageing body being celebrated.
What will the effect of these images?
I would like people to have a book for mothers and fathers to share with their children and their parents. For age to be seen as natural, a beautiful part of being human to have the privilege to grow older. I want people of all ages, young, older and middle ages and to look at these images and just feel good.
Tell me about Darwin and Gerry?
Darwin and Gerry showed me that love, passion and sexuality absolutely does not go out the window when you are older. Infact, it got a little hot in the studio, The way they were kissing! It was all so counter intuitive to what I was brought up to believe. And as for Darwin and Gerry, they loved it — they are incredible. I was initially a little bit worried about putting their image on social media but they were up for it. Gerry wrote a long email to me last week reflecting on the responses of the photograph and wanted to know what it was about this image which was making people well up and be so moved? She is just so proud as she has struggled with her body images and is so thrilled that she has managed to touch so many people. The images have now reached over 2 million people. And this is just the beginning.
You can see more of Jade’s amazing images on her websitewww.jadebeall.comYou can buy her book, The Body of Mother here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bodies-Mothers-Beautiful-Body-Project/dp/0989983862
If you liked the story above, we think you will also like these related stories from our In—Common library.
Be proud of the aging process
Artist, wife, mother and performer Melodie Holliday talks about love, life and being proud (more)
Passing on the traditions of Ndebele painting
Painter and Artist Esther Mahlangu is Keeping Africa’s Ndebele painting alive, and is known (more)