Take time – photograph the invisible

A little old doggy hiding under the coffee table.
A little old doggy hiding under the coffee table.
Iris-film-poster-2015There’s been a delightful buzz and critical acclaim for the documentary film ‘Iris’. It is refreshing, no, it’s actually amazing to see that a film has been made about a 93 year old lady. Iris Apfel is an eccentric, New York born interior designer not only renowned for her work, but also famous for her personal style of outsized glasses and exceedingly bold accessories. I was hoping to go and see this film at a cinema, but despite living in a large English county popular with folks for their retirement not one cinema will be screening this film! All I can guess is that the film distributers decided nobody would be interested. It is available ‘on demand’, but a film showcasing such a vivid character with many shots of vibrant textiles, almost psychedelic outfits and rich interiors would be so much more enjoyable on a big screen.

My mother an older, but glamorous granny.
My mother an older, but glamorous granny.
Of course, it’s easy to criticise and it made me think more generally of how we visually represent older women and on the whole we don’t. Apart from the Queen (90 next year) and those sweet, fluffy grannies beaming out from residential/care home brochures, pictures of women over 70 years old in the wider media are notable by their absence. In an era when there have never been more photographs taken and every third image is somebody’s selfie why do we have this absence? Here’s hoping following the return of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ this week with the fabulous Mary Berry (80 years old) back on the telly, other active, articulate, interesting elderly women will become visible.

Sadly and guiltily, I have to admit when scanning through the many photographs I took during the last family get togethers before my mother died, I’d only photographed the children and the dogs, but fortunately my teenage daughter took a few snaps of her granny.

Photographing the invisible too late, the gap left by my mother.
Photographing the invisible too late, the gap left by my mother.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

8 thoughts on “Take time – photograph the invisible”

    1. Thanks, Gwen, but I have to say that these photos don’t do her justice as in the last two pics she is looking rather ill and unknown to everybody (including herself) she was already in the advanced stage of terminal lung cancer. She hadn’t smoked for over 50 years – life is full of little surprises right to the end!

  1. Well, to me, she looks well considering her illness. she must have been a really special person when fighting fit. In recent years I have come to realise that what is diagnosed as lung cancer is often the secondary – so am starting to think we have misinterpreted the smoking factor. I mean yes, smoking and lung cancer are linked, but that you can develop lung cancer without being a smoker, because once it gets into the lymph nodes, a different cancer settles in the lungs and that’s what people recognise. Sorry, that got a bit deep. My dear friend, the one who introduced me to my husband and was my bridesmaid, died the day after my 60th, from a combination of several different cancers. She went peacefully in the end, but the treatments that she agreed to in the last few months, desperate to get a little more time to organise her business (she was only 67), made her life a misery. I may have told you already. Apologies!

    1. Oh Gwen, I’m so sorry – you hadn’t mentioned it to me, my sincerest condolences for your recent loss. Yes, some of the cancer treatment is pretty grim, but, of course, at 67 there is still much to be done and said. I was with my mother when we went in to see the specialist and as soon as we saw two people sitting there we both new it was bad news, but at 78 my mum just told them she didn’t want anything other than pain relief.

      I’m not quite what I seem, my first degree was physiology and for a while I worked at a heart and lung hospital and so I know my way round medical journals. The docs weren’t interested why my mother had squamous cell lung cancer and just put it down to smoking, but that reason did bother my mother. She had been a year in bed with TB of the lungs when she was 18 and was one of the first to be saved by streptomycin. Digging around in the medical literature I found that about 5% of lung cancer is thought to have some link with TB or perhaps the frequent use of the heavy duty x-rays used to monitor the illness in the 1950s. As far as my mum was concerned the TB didn’t get her at 18 and she had had another 60 years of life.

  2. No sooner had I read your post than I got our weekly email newsletter from the Curzon cinema here in Ripon. Guess what? They’re screening ‘Iris’ next week. They must have taken notice of you….

    1. If only, last time I checked even our local Picturehouse Cinema (Cinema City in Norwich) didn’t have it on the list. I used to live in Exeter and I see along with Ripon both cities’ Picturehouses have decided to give it a whirl – lucky you.

  3. Interesting film (thanks for the hint). The gap photograph – yes, nice catch, in bereavement there is always that volume of empty air which follows you about.

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