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We will not be invisible: photographing older women

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Women over the age of 40 often say they suddenly become invisible in public life.

Well, not to photographer Yasmin Idriss. Two years ago she embarked on a project to photograph the fabulousness of older women.

How would you explain the 40+ project in a nutshell? What inspired you kick off this project?

The 40+ Project is a culmination of more than two years photographing women who are 40 years and over. This exhibition is a celebration of who we are as women as we age.

The entertainment industry and fashion magazines make it clear they think we are too old to be the glamorous leading lady, and for the most part, we become invisible. We will NOT be invisible! Moreover, we are certainly never too old to be pampered, photographed, loved, admired and adored.

Being in my forties myself, the project developed from my desire to create a photobook called ’40 Something’, about us (women), who we are, our journey thus far and how we feel in our forties. It was a project I could relate to directly.

As the project progressed, I realised I wanted to capture and include gorgeous images of my mother and the other generations before me, before it was too late. Thus, the concept of a second book manifested itself as ’50 over 50′.

To simplify a call out for participants, The 40+ Project was born.

Photographer Yasmin Idriss believes older women should not be invisible. Photo: Supplied.

Who did you photograph and how did you go about it? How did you find participants? 

I began by talking to family and friends about my ideas and asking them if they would participate. I also asked everyone to spread the word and ask their family and friends if they were interested in participating. Facebook was handy for spreading the word, and I set up an information page on my art website.

How many women did you photograph? 

Thus far, I have photographed over 20 women. Unfortunately, the pandemic caused a number of delays and progress was slow at times. It was important to me that I help keep vulnerable family members safe, otherwise, there’d have been more photoshoots to date. It wasn’t all bad—I think it gave some ladies more time to think about what sort of photoshoot they really wanted to have.

By the way, this project won’t stop just because I’m having an exhibition! I still have a number of photoshoots lined up for February and March. In fact, I’m having this exhibition to showcase what I have done so far and generate further interest in the project.

I’m hoping that when ladies see my artwork and meet the other participants at opening night they will be keen to get involved. I am always on the lookout for interesting people, faces and life stories. Please come and join the project.

“Veil” by Yasmin Idriss.

What’s your favourite moment or anecdote from working on this project? 

My favourite moments are when I see my subject relax, let loose and simply have fun in front of the camera. There’s often a lot of laughter during my photoshoots. I think it’s important to have fun and be able to enjoy these experiences, both for me and for my subject.

One lady mentioned that the photoshoot was such fun that she was able to forget about her major health problems for a few hours. That really grabbed my heart—job done, Yasmin.

What did you learn that you weren’t expecting?

  1. I learnt that you can’t always predict who will be willing to get in front of the camera, nor can you predict who is going to jump in and go for it! I never know what people are willing to do for the camera till we are in session! I love it. It’s always a pleasant surprise to discover the creative, fun-loving side of people.
  2. You can’t always predict what people love or hate about themselves or their image. Sometimes, I am surprised!
  3. The right hair, makeup and fabulous outfit can transform even the most anxious of subjects into a superstar model.

“Bronze splendour” by Yasmin Idriss.

What don’t people understand about women in this age bracket that you’d like people who see the show to think about? 

Why does age make us less attractive? We all age. Perhaps a person’s beauty should be determined by their personality, actions and life experiences, not their age.

We are 40+. Do not think of us as old. Think of each of us as having 40+ years of accumulated knowledge, adventures and invaluable life experiences you may not have even imagined. After 40, we care less about what other people think, and some women become more vibrant and interesting with age.

Some are great listeners and make amazing friends. We have persevered through life, no matter what it throws at us. We are strong, even if we don’t know it. And we shine when we work together. Confidence is so alluring, and I want to photograph that spark in every single woman I meet through these projects.

Anything else you want to say? 

40+ women are beautiful. Come and see it for yourself.

One of my favourite quotes:

“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” – GD Anderson

The 40+ exhibition runs from 3-26 February 2022 and it’s on at Rusten House Art Centre, Queanbeyan, NSW.

Entry is free. Opening night is on Thursday 3 February @ 5-7 pm.

HerCanberra is a proud supporter of the BroadAgenda, Australia’s leading research-based gender equality media platform based at the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra.

Feature image at top: Title: “My tattoo” by Yasmin Idriss

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