Natalia Evelyn Bencicova, the 23 year old award-winning Slovakian photographer, recently told The Age of No Retirement about the important part confidence plays in living long and inspired lives, as portrayed in her extraordinarily beautiful series of images, ‘Youth has No Age’.

Evelyn, what inspired you to take the pictures?

"As young women we are so used to putting ourselves down but she just exuded this wonderful confidence in her own skin and I asked her, ‘You are so confident, where do you get this?’ And she said, ‘Because I know who I am’."

Evelyn Bencicova

Photograhy by Natalia Evelyn Bencicova

It started one day when I was looking at the ads in some women’s magazines. I was shocked that there were so many about plastic surgery. These type of ads are very common in Slovakia, often showing women in their 30s — so quite young — talking about how great plastic surgery is and how terrible it is to age.

"One of my favourite moments was when one of the models told me how wonderful it was to spend time with young people and how much energy she gets from spending time with people who are younger. She had so much wisdom, but she wanted to be in touch with the present."

Evelyn Bencicova

Photograhy by Natalia Evelyn Bencicova

It suddenly became clear that the world I was seeing was one that said that ageing was something to be afraid of and that we had to avoid it at all costs. It really moved me, I suppose partly because it touched a nerve, as I realised that I was also scared of getting older.

"And, in getting to know these women, it became clear that there were no age boundaries. The key was to be confident and strong."

Evelyn Bencicova

Photograhy by Natalia Evelyn Bencicova

I wanted to challenge myself and decided to meet women who were not young and to find out more about how they felt about themselves. I wanted to choose women who would be positive role models for older women, to give them courage to feel beautiful. But I also wanted to connect with younger women, like myself, and see if I could find a way to change their opinions and perceptions of ageing.

"These women are not the victims of plastic surgery, they are not hiding their beauty and you can feel it. The story is in their skin."

Evelyn Bencicova

Photograhy by Natalia Evelyn Bencicova

Tell us about the women you chose to photograph?

I wanted to find women who were strong and real — they were from all walks of life, cleaners, grandmothers, academics, professionals, performers. The youngest was my mother and the oldest was 95, but you would never know she was 95. She is an opera singer and still performs and still has the most amazing way of holding an audience. She is so full of energy doing what she loves. I first met her in her dressing room and I could feel such energy from her. I was looking for powerful people who would spend time with me. And, in getting to know these women, it became clear that there were no age boundaries. The key was to be confident and strong.

What did your models get out of the experience?

Prior to the shoot, I spent time with the models in their homes. We got to know each other. They really appreciated the time I spent getting to know them. They wanted to share their stories and appreciated the time. Their lives and their experiences were so interesting and so inspiring. The actual shoot itself felt so much easier because I was following up with them. As a result of the often emotional conversation we had, we got to know each other.

One of my favourite moments was when one of the models told me how wonderful it was to spend time with young people and how much energy she gets from spending time with people who are younger. She had so much wisdom, but she wanted to be in touch with the present.

Tell me about the name of the series of images, ‘Youth has no age?’

I wanted to breakaway from the classical view of beauty that you see in fashion magazines. The women I photographed are still beautiful but beyond the normal classification of beauty. They are all beautiful and strong.The images tell their stories, without the words of their stories, right in front of you.These women are not the victims of plastic surgery, they are not hiding their beauty and you can feel it.

The story is in their skin.

You can see more of Natalie’s work at www.evelynbencicova.com

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