Portraying Women of a Certain Age
A few days ago I encountered some striking portraits of women of a certain age.
The portraits seemed to have an almost mythic sensibility – posed, yes, but also very natural.
The more I looked, the more I could feel the character and life experience of each woman playing across her image.
Such strong, yet simple pieces – so much vitality, poise and personality in each photograph. We rarely see images of older women at all and if we do, they never look so finely honed, as if caught in the middle of a fashion shoot.
Yet here was one after the other, modeling not clothes, but their grace, dignity and sense of themselves, as if the photographer had managed to somehow portray the very essence of their identity.
I wondered, who captured these moments and enabled us see these women in this light? Who created these images and why? I think you’ll find the answer surprising.
Introducing Evelyn Bencicova
These photos are part of RIPE, a recent personal project by Natalia Evelyn Bencicova, age 23. Evelyn grew up in Bratislava, Slovakia, attends university in Vienna and is now based in Berlin. Before she first picked up a camera, in 2012, she worked as a model.
Evelyn, from a Bird in Flight interview:
I can communicate well with people and get close to them. Most of the time I photograph friends or people with whom I intend to be friends with. This way they are giving me something for the photo. I really appreciate it and I also feel that I need to give something back to them.
Evelyn, from a Design Ideas interview:
I portray women of great courage and character. Ladies who are not afraid to display their natural beauty and aging… In every silver hair and wrinkle is written an extraordinary life story. They are turning social prejudice into nonsense and exchanging usual phobia for a celebration of life.
Even though I’m very young, I can feel huge social pressure created around aging. According to commercial fashion and beauty magazines, it seems that women above 40 almost don’t exist. Wrinkles and other natural signs of time on human body are considered unwanted and shameful…
I decided to show proud female characters who are not only beautiful but also active. They are artists, businesswoman, professors or workers, mothers, grandmother or even great-grandmothers.
Their inner strength and beauty even exceeds graceful looks and proves that even time can play in your favor, if it is time and life well spent.
When Identity and Individuality Vanish
As you can see, Evelyn is an extremely gifted artist. Where RIPE opens up a world of strong individual identities, ASYMPTOTE, a project created with Adam Csoka Keller, explores how identity and individuality vanish when confronted by a vast and unyielding bureaucracy. In ASYMPTOTE Evelyn and Adam use photography and a surrealist aesthetic to recreate the psychic ambiance of life in Czechoslovakia under socialism.
Evelyn, from a Kaltblut Magazine interview:
For ASYMPTOTE I’m using places from socialistic era with real history. It is truth that a location is somehow representing certain state of mind, mood or atmosphere of the photo… If it is the right place I usually know it immediately.
Besides few technical parameters the most important is to feel the energy of the space. I mean this feeling, that something happened there but you are never sure what was it. It usually activates my imagination more than anything else.
From a Train to Create interview:
I’m very passionate, impatient and fast. I always know what kind of feeling and situation I want to get from each shoot but I work with composition and posing usually straight on the set. If everything was prepared and planed it would lose part of its magic.
Unexpected details and accidents are the things, which make me really excited and often they lead the final results. Our shootings are really strong, physically and also emotionally; I need to feel the real presence and connection between people.
I want the story to be real, truly happening on the set. Creativity always comes when you go out of your comfort zone and try something what you are not already good at.
Here’s a short video by Adam Csoka Keller that offers another view of ASYMPTOTE:
ASYMPTOTE from Adam Csoka Keller on Vimeo.
Passion, Art and Identity
Evelyn is seemingly fearless about her art. If you go to her website, you’ll see other projects equally intense and strange. Powered by her fierce artistic energy and passion, as her imagination soars to new heights, her capacity for creative expression seems to flow beyond boundaries.
Youth is a passionate time, with a fervor and sense of engagement that won’t quit. That enormous explosion of energy can produce brilliant work, a burn out or both. Still, it’s good to be reminded of the immense artistic power that all that focus and creativity can unleash. As we grow older, it’s easy to be content with a more comfortable path, or to loose one’s way in a thicket of duty, responsibility and practicality.
As Elle Luna showed us, we are constantly finding ourselves at the crossroads of “should” and “must.” Encountering an artist like Evelyn Bencicova may help us navigate a path back to our own forms of creative expression – if we allow ourselves the opportunity to take it.
From a Bird in Flight interview:
I am absolutely in a trance, like an obsessed person, when I am shooting. I am addicted to it.
From Chasseur Magazine:
In my pictures you can see a lot of emptiness because that is the thing that scares me the most. I don’t want to spend what life is left in me in a very basic way. I want to fill it with passion and intense moments.
I am in my studio from the morning till late in the night. People come, we sit and talk, then we take photos the whole day like this. I need to believe that I have the power to change things, at least for myself. Always learn and never give up – is my basic motto, which I hope to never forget along the way.
So what do you think? Does her work speak to you, too? Leave a comment and let me know.