Laura Page presents a series of photographic portraits and stories of people from across the UK, reimagining ageing and defying stereotypes of what it is to be older. The project has won a Vassie Award and was covered by the BBC, and is now being exhibited for the first time.
What was the inspiration behind “Hidden Depths”?
The project really got started when I won the Rebecca Vassie Award for my proposal to photograph older people in a positive light, but the idea came to me gradually. I’d been running a lot of workshops in residential homes as well as people with dementia and I began to notice my own bias. Especially the stark difference between how I perceived them when we first met compared to how I saw them once I got to know their personalities, deep histories and lives. I’d also picked up on people telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing and wearing once I was in my 40s, as well as realising how limiting statements like “I’m too old for that” can be. The images we generally see in the media of older people are not particularly accurate and that can be damaging, which is another reason I chose to do this project.
What was your favourite part of working on this project?
Meeting the people I photographed and hearing their life stories and learning from their wisdom. People got in touch after the project and told me how seeing the images had changed their perspective and made them remember who they are and that really meant a lot. It was also good to make new connections with people in the first lockdown and chatting to people through email about their lives. It helped keep me sane!
Were there any unique challenges you faced putting your exhibition together?
Yes. Photographing in the first place was a big challenge because of Covid. Well, I guess that’s not unique. Most people were challenged by the pandemic. But the challenges were people’s safety and getting to grips with all of the constant changes. The same uncertainties applied to planning the exhibitions and associated events.
Did you get any interesting insights or nuggets of inspiration as you were working on your exhibition?
So many. It was interesting that, of the people I photographed, although they were from varying backgrounds and with unique characteristics, there were some similarities they all shared. They were all keen to learn new things, they all had a positive outlook on life even though many had experienced tragedy, they all liked to mix with people of different ages, and none of them seemed afraid to be themselves.
Other pieces of wisdom I learned or was reminded of: laugh at life and yourself, be open-minded and try not to judge others, don’t care too much what other people think, be brave, don’t put yourself in a box. I also gained tiny insights into pyrography, coming out of a coma, life as a refugee, tartan weaving, being a woman in the 1940s, painting pigments from India, what it’s like to be blind and what the inside of a Spitfire looks to name but a few.
Do you have anything else exciting in the works you’d like to tell us about?
I’m working with other organisations to take images that more accurately and positively depict later life. I really hope there’s going to be a big shift in the kind of images we see out there. Images can be so powerful and constantly seeing negative stereotypes can be damaging to people’s aspirations, self-belief and views of others.
Hidden Depths will be at Persistence Works until the 26th March 2022.
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