Photo: Ben Ritter
I always had a strong affinity for older people. I grew up in San Diego and my grandmother was one of my best friends. The stories she had to tell were fascinating. My grandmother was way more interesting than my friends. I always thought it was such an honor to be able to spend time with her. While other kids were at baseball practice, I was watching old movies with my grandmother. I also loved how she dressed, going through her closet. She grew up in an era where it was important to be well dressed and present yourself beautifully. For as long as I remember, I was drawing pictures of my grandmother and her friends.
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When I moved to New York, I started seeing these incredible older women and I was drawn to them. I started approaching women on the street, photographing and interviewing them. It was just a personal project to start with; I saw a real lack of older people in media. Especially the kind of more vital, vibrant representations; everything was negative or clinical. So I decided to start the blog Advanced Style . I saw such a fear of aging from young people, and from older people who thought they had to give up. Yet for me, I was seeing incredible people living really vital lives and I knew they had the power to change people’s perception of getting older. I wanted to show examples of women who are aging gracefully with creativity and skill, with so much joy in their lives. We are so focused on youth and being young, to see these women who are doing their own thing and feeling good about themselves is great.
Photo: Ari Seth Cohen
A year into it, I got written up by a few outlets like The New York Times. I was approached by Selfridges in London to do a campaign and I quit my job to devote my time to Advanced Style. I did the Advanced Style book , and photography projects for various brands and magazines like Coach and German Rolling Stone. I also just completed the Advanced Style documentary. It’s been playing in the UK, Australia, Scandinavia, and Japan and we are looking for a US distributor. I’ve been offered projects with younger people, but I always refuse those jobs. When I was younger I dreamed of being an events director for a retirement community.
Photo: Ari Seth Cohen
The whole experience has broadened my perspective on aging, if you have a great attitude, you can have a wonderful life. I used to be afraid of my next step. Listening to their stories and how many lifetimes and experiences and choices that they have made, I am less fearful about everything. They’ve taught me to be bold, to take care of myself better, to take risks, and to not be afraid to challenge myself.
As told to Sara Bliss
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