Aging: The Bigger Picture

International photography challenge asks us to view Aging: The Bigger Picture through a different lens when conceptualizing aging, a complex process influenced by countless factors and dimensions, it’s all too easy to revert to clichés. Yet those with seven or eight decades behind them will tell you, getting older happens to the best of us – and it’s never quite how we imagined it.

With the complexities of growing older in mind, the British Society of Gerontology recently sponsored a photography contest challenging photographers from all over the world to create provocative images designed to evolve our concept of aging. Participants were asked to take a contemplative approach to the subject by revealing the nuances of aging and presenting portraits that were far more than skin deep.

With thousands of British pounds in prizes, over 1,200 images of aging were submitted to the global online photography community Photocrowd. Two sets of winners were chosen. One by Photocrowd members themselves and the other by an expert panel. Included in that panel was co-founder Liam Bailey and Julia Twigg, a professor of social policy in the UK.

The stunning images honored by both the online community and the experts carry energies guaranteed to make you ponder everything from inner beauty to mortality, while one winning photo epitomizes the courage required to face the aging process with grace.

Agnes, the subject of Karoline Hjorth and Riita Ikonen’s winning image, certainly has no shortage of courage – she made her first parachute jump at 85, jumping a second time to celebrate her 90th birthday. Awarded first place from the expert panel, judges commended the image’s ability to convey playfulness and understated intelligence, while feeling soulful and conveying Anges’s inner joy and inner strength.

While the expert panel awarded Agnes for her strength, Photocrowd members opted for tenderness. A precious family moment captured by a stranger, Hardik Gaurav’s image titled Circle of Life was shot in a small village of Udaipur, India.

Gaurav says he was completing his anthropological fieldwork when he happened upon the warm embrace of an old man and his great-grandson, the great grandfather rejoicing in the beauty of new life and the birth of a new generation. Crowd members praised the image as touching and full of emotion. It shows great compositional contrast between old and young.

Perhaps the genius of Gaurav’s shot is its ability to show that the beauty of a great grandfather is just as profound as that of an infant – yet so entirely different. While the untouched beauty of a baby is born of innocence, the deep, layered beauty of aging is revealed with time.

As the decades pile up, there’s no avoiding the physical manifestations of a lifetime of decisions. When observing Agnes and Gaurav’s anonymous man from Udaipar, we see how every face of the aging tells a story. A warmth radiates from Agnes’s eyes as the great grandfather’s expression tells of unconditional love. What could be more beautiful than that? Perhaps someday the view of aging will emphasize that a brave and loving approach to life carves an indisputable beauty that transcends superficiality.

Judges said Agnes’s fearlessness had unanimous appeal, earning Hjorth & Riitta’s image top honors.

Capturing a great grandfather embracing a new generation, Guarav’s image was the crowd favorite.


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