Spirit • The Journal • December 2020
On age. Why is it that when we talk about houses, jewellery, handbags, or so many other desirable objects, age is a positive attribute? Imagine an ancient stone cottage with winter-worn woodstove and plush sofas that get comfier as time goes by. Or a tried and trusty weekend overnight bag that comes out for every trip away. Or the delight of taking an old favourite dress out of its cedar-scented storage bag. There’s something comforting about knowing that the objects we surround ourselves with hold our history. That our lives are somehow written into our homes, gardens and keepsakes.
When it comes to ourselves though, us humans seem to have a different view about ageing. Being older seems to come with a raft of negative associations. We are constantly told that we have to look and stay young, to cling on to that vanishing and elusive time in our lives: our youth. As Oscar Wilde once said, ‘The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.’ Talk to anyone older and they’ll most likely tell you they still feel like they’re in their twenties, no matter how many years of life experience they carry.
Someone who is taking on this philosophy is Dee Boomkens. A fashion photographer, she is passionate about promoting a positive image of ageing, especially in women. When she turned forty, she realised she was ‘missing inspiring websites with coolness and authenticity towards ageing’ She founded AndBloom, a ‘digital happy place for women over forty’. AndBloom is a project to showcase and celebrate authentic ageing. It aims to promote love for the ageing self by showing how beautiful, ordinary women like all of us, really are. Her philosophy is simple. ‘The more we inspire each other the easier it is. We need love for the ageing self without fear of looking older.’
‘Some days it feels like I’ve started a small revolution. As if I am gathering a little army of women around me.’
Feeling better about oneself and how one looks tends to link with better health, according to research on ageing, health and gender. So, Boomkens' project feels like essential work for women’s experience of ageing. She invites women to her studio where she photographs them and asks them to talk about themselves. She asks them to tell only what they want about themselves. And women do. The results are on her site. Droves of stunning, ‘ordinary’ women who look completely at ease with their grey hair, wrinkles and bodies. They talk about their careers, their latest Google searches, what they do to start their day in a positive way. It is a joy to see and an inspiration.
Dee has been working on the project for two years now. Her plans to portray women from all over the world scuppered by you-know-what, she is currently asking women to send in radical self-portraits after showing them just how to take a professional self-portrait. The results are stunning. They will give anyone a fresh perspective on growing older and the wise words of wisdom from this growing community will no doubt encourage more of us to celebrate our greys and wrinkles and wear them as badges of lives well-lived.