Warning: This story contains graphic images
US-based photographer Demetrius Fordham has released a stunning portrait series celebrating women over 45. Called ‘Ageless Beauty’, the project is a series of untouched images designed to challenge the idea that youth equates to beauty.
Having worked as a fashion photographer for a decade, Fordham, 35, grew tired of this one standard of beauty that the industry seemed to perpetuate. “All the models we would cast for these fashion ads and editorials would be these young girls who had the same kind of look, and who would all end up being heavily retouched to remove every little flaw or imperfection. And then we’d put that out into the world and call that ‘beautiful’,” he tells SBS Life.
The project was conceived after Fordham realised he was “part of the machine that created this narrow definition of ‘beauty’.”
He explains, “I wanted to challenge the idea that youth is synonymous with beauty, and celebrate women who are older and who might not feel ‘beautiful’ by society’s standards. Like, I would hate for my wife to think she’d be any less beautiful when she’s 40, 50, 60. I wanted to capture this idea that growing older only makes a woman even more beautiful and that they should be proud of it—laugh lines and grey hairs and all.”
While he admits he made some slight colour corrections on the overall images, it was important for Fordham not to retouch the bodies or faces of the women - of diverse ethnic backgrounds - featured. “Because all of a human’s so-called ‘flaws’ and ‘imperfections’ are what makes them beautiful.”
Fordham also wanted to address the double standards between men and women that comes with growing older. “There’s this perception that men only get better with age and can be desirable at any age, George Clooney-style, that doesn’t apply to women,” he says. “ Women are constantly told by the media that they should fight wrinkles and try to look like they’re 21. I still don’t understand it.”
No longer working in fashion; Fordham now focuses on portraiture. “I love it – the human interaction, and capturing something real instead of shooting things that are contrived or heavily produced.”
For this shoot in particular, he wanted to ensure his models felt comfortable being stripped bare. “To be completely vulnerable like that is difficult for anyone,” he explains. “But I think for all of them in ended up being a very liberating and rewarding experience.”