500 Strong: Artist celebrates older women’s beauty

Why do older women pose for a nude photoshoot? Is it to be brave? For fun? To be rebellious? To reinvent themselves after a relationship break-up? Or simply to celebrate the older female body? Artist Ponch Hawkes found all of these reasons as she photographed Australian women aged 50 and older for her 500 Strong project.

500 Strong shows the world what the bodies of older women look like; those who have lived and loved, and have not been airbrushed to feature in fashion magazines such as Vogue.

With an aim to engage with and empower women, 500 Strong is part of the larger project Flesh After Fifty led by Professor Martha Hickey (University of Melbourne). Flesh After Fifty explores and challenges the “negative stereotypes of aging while celebrating and promoting positive images of older women through art”.

This project is a delight. I am so pleased to add it to the collection of work by other artists who celebrate ageing that I feature on my website. Artists have for a long time respected and represented the older body, and their work as a whole provides one of the most powerful (and beautiful) challenges to the restrictive beauty ideal we find in many societies. You know, the one that associates beauty with being young, having smooth skin, and absolutely no disabilities.

Bravo to the people who are working on this project. Their Flesh After Fifty website is full of age-positive information and is well worth a look.

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