Project

Centenarians: Frosty years of life in the Anastasia Pottinger project

Anastasia Pottinger turned experiments with light and textures into the project that captures the beauty of seniors

Anastasia Pottinger
43 years oldAnastasia Pottinger,
Photographer and executive director of Orr Street Studios, Columbia, MO. Was awarded by the HumanKind Exhibition and Anything Goes Exhibition, and is a recepient of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award. Gets inspired by works of Gloria Baker Feinstein, Annie Leibovitz and Anne Geddes.
Idea

The dominant idea of “Centenarians” is the power, beauty and frailty of the human body over time. People who have lived this long and willing to share their stories are more than worthy of respect. To look at and to appreciate the body in its’ natural condition is a wonderful thing. Originally it was just an exercise, now it’s more of a statement.

Shortly before starting a project I had an experience photographing a woman who was about to have a double mastectomy due to breast cancer and it changed the way I interact with my subjects. Instead of using the camera to separate me from people or to keep me emotionally safe, I was asking them to be with me. This brought a new level of authenticity to my work.

My mom was working as a personal assistant to the woman who would become my first model, Lucy Hall. She knew she could trust me, so she said that she is up for the adventure. It really was just an exercise in light and texture and reflection of light on the body and documenting her body in an abstract way. Originally, she didn’t want to be identified, but after she saw the work and the response to it, she was more than willing to come out and talk about the experience with others. She was very proud of being a part of this project. After seeing the photos for the first time, I was moved by what I had captured and by Lucy’s willingness to be so open and honest with herself and her body. I wanted to see what happened if I worked with more models over the age of 100.


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Fear of getting older

Why 100 and not just “older people”? I think if you’ve lived to be a 100, that’s quite remarkable. It’s epic and enormous and such a milestone. Listening and sharing my characters’ stories is as important to me as documenting their bodies. I want to show the body at 100 in all of its details. Not all of my models were naked — one of them did not feel comfortable removing even his socks, so I worked with whatever I got.

So far I have photographed four people — two men and two women — they are very adventurous! I had to put the project on hold for the three years, now that the project is going again, I have several models lined up to document, but they live in other states so I am trying to raise the funds to be able to travel to see them. I am very interested in my models as humans and as individuals. I know that most of them probably do not have long to live and I want their waning years to be full of love and life. I hope that I can give them a good adventure story to tell.

A lot of people who view the images think they are beautiful, but usually there is someone who says: “I don’t want to look like that”. I always respond that I hope I can look like that! I hope that people can look at the photos and appreciate their bodies. I hope they can love themselves as they are and see that it will change, but it is all beautiful. I think people are afraid of the unknown of aging. There are things about getting older that frighten me as well.


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About the book and new projects

I have exhibited the series several times and have another exhibition coming up in June. I hope to be able to showcase the collection in larger galleries outside of my own area. I’d love to exhibit it with oversized prints, 40″x40″. I printed 3 pieces of this size for my last display and it’s so beautiful to see them this large! I am working with an agent in New York right now to try and sell the book to publishers. The goal is to get a hundred models who would all be a 100 years of age for the book representing all types of layers of society.

I have another project that I’m working on – it’s dedicated to my son who is bipolar and suffers of neurological disorders. You can see some of the images from that project on my website. I also have an idea to do a project about basketball players’ tattoos called “Basketball Ink.” I think the culture of basketball and the tattoos that players have on their biceps are unique to that sport. I haven’t shot any of the project yet, but I can see it in my head.

I spend a lot of time outside on trails and hiking with my son and I have been shooting a lot of debris in trees or caught up in streams. This might turn into something someday as well, who knows.

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