A strange thing happened yesterday morning: it’s the middle of half term and most usual avenues of entertaining the children have been exhausted, so we decided to pull out the big guns and go out for brunch and furniture shopping. That wasn’t the strange thing – the children love a good sofa shop! The strange thing was the phone call I received from BBC Radio Essex, inviting me on air to discuss photographing the elderly.
Very quickly I realised this wasn’t a prank and the cogs started whirring. It seems I was discovered via a Google search, being (one of) the only photographers in Essex to have blogged about taking photographs of the elderly. The blog was about an event I hosted with my aunt and uncle for Contact the Elderly, an amazing charity that helps connect elderly members of our local community with eachother, forming invaluable friendships and providing much needed social interaction for people who may otherwise not leave their homes for weeks on end.
I spoke to a researcher who explained that Sara Livadeas, and avid campaigner against the media’s current portrayal of the elderly, was going to be on the show to discuss her views, and how we rarely see elderly people enjoying everyday activities let alone smiley, happy faces. Stock photos are often used when news stories involve older people, for example wrinkled hands, or zimmer frames and slippered feet. Where are all the smiles, the frowns even, the personalities? As a photographer I love to capture a moment, an expression frozen in time. A stock photograph of wrinkled hands is not doing that at all. Why are we as a society hiding the faces of our elderly? Is it easier for people to “forget” the responsibility we have to our families, friends and community if they see no faces? By doing this we are reinforcing the message that all of our elderly are weak and dependent, that they are vulnerable, and this is not the case. Of course there are elderly people who are vulnerable and may need extra help, but there are many, many elderly people who do not fall into this category. We shouldn’t be using negative imagery to portray anybody, young or old. Through Contact the Elderly I have had some fantastic conversations with elderly people, and am always awestruck by the strength and character I come face to face with. These are not people who want to hide away. These are people who want their faces to be seen.
So, if you want to have a listen to the discussion from this morning click here. I can’t promise the best vocals, or even the most concise discussion points from myself, but hey I gave it a go!