I was once a handsome young man. I’d walk down the street and glance at a young woman, and she would return my gaze. Our eyes would lock and I could feel a sexual current pass between us.
That was many years ago. Now when I look into the faces of people I pass, they seem to look through me; summing me up and dismissing me all in an instant. Where I once felt I could command anyone’s attention, I have come to feel invisible; a middle-aged man who looks like most other middle-aged men.
I have discussed this phenomenon with friends and acquaintances in their 40s and 50s, and have discovered most have experienced the same thing. And yet, I don't feel old; I don’t feel middle-aged; I don't feel irrelevant. On the contrary, I feel as alive and vital as I ever have; more powerfully creative and better equipped to realize my goals.
Six years ago, at the age of 48, I abandoned my life’s work as a painter and sculptor and became a photographer. I welcomed the change and was energized by the journey into the unknown.. Even though I had an already highly-regarded reputation as a fine artist with a large body of work, I didn’t look back for a moment as I forged ahead into an entirely new artistic world for me.
I photographed women of all shapes and sizes, nude, and I believe, made them all look beautiful. Most of them, however, were in their 20’s and 30’s. Last year, however, I was finally moved to seek out somewhat older models. Many currents led me to create this new body of work, but one incident in particular provided the final impetus.
I was casually perusing the personal ads in Craig’s List, looking for models. (I generally prefer to use “real” women vs. professional models, and have found this a good source.)
I noticed several ads from women in their 40s and 50s. Most of them began with the same disclaimer: "If you're looking for a skinny young model with perfect breasts and smooth skin, look elsewhere" These women felt the need to apologize for not being twenty; for showing signs of having lived a full life. Their words revealed a self-defeated attitude; certain that few men would appreciate all they had to offer because it didn’t come in a perfect package. I have no doubt that their defensive position was based on their experiences, but I was stunned that so few men could appreciate these seemingly interesting, intelligent, accomplished women.
As I walk down the street looking into the faces of all those strangers, I notice so many beautiful mature women, wondering if any are the authors of those ads – if they are having difficulty finding men who will appreciate all the signs of a life well and fully-lived. They may be older, but they are also wiser, calmer, more circumspect and patient. Their life experience has liberated them from all the petty things that used to impede their happiness.. They have the self-knowledge that comes with conquering heartache and difficulties. They have looked deep into their own souls and have come to understand what's important to them; and they can finally pursue it without fear of what others will think. I’m sure, like myself, they do not feel middle-aged in their heads. They are still young and vibrant, as lusty and desirous as they ever were; and eminently worthy of desire. It became my artistic goal to try and show the beauty and sexiness of these mature women, without attempting to hide the battle scars that give character to their allure.
All content on this page copyright Michael Berkowitz 2006