There’s comes a point in the life of most people where you realise you are quite invisible to a certain generation. You may well have experienced this invisibility. Perhaps wandering in the vicinity of an institute of higher education, seeing a student handing out fliers, and it’s not just that they look at you and assess that you are unlikely to be interested in the union lock-in sleep-in, but that they don’t even see you walking by.
A while back, I was looking for images of ordinary old people for some work I wanted to do. I scanned through magazines. Nothing. Even general magazines for 40+ women were full of images of high-gloss adverts for high-maintenance living. There were no magazines aimed at old people at all (at least that I could find), so I gave up and realised I would just have to rely on my surreptitious sketchbook work.
I suppose now that my antennae have been twanged on this great omission in the media presentation of ‘society’, I am ever more conscious of the ever-increasing gap between the images we are bombarded with, and the actual reality of how how people really are in daily life. I was particularly aware of this trundling up and down the high street yesterday of a small market town on market day. I took a whole load of photos to try and capture a fragment of this ‘reality’.
I think it is an interesting contrast with the pervasive images usually published of celebrities stepping out to shop.
My lingering concern is that it is now so unusual to see everyday street shots of ordinary people that there is a danger of appearing patronising in publishing them. Ordinary people: only worth photographing in the name of art? Well, there is undeniably an artist at work here. All I can say with certainty is that I am driven by a concern to depict a ‘reality’, whatever that may be.
These ‘ordinary people’ do not sport designer jeans or carry must-have totes. They drag shopping trolleys behind them, and use polythene bags.
I have experienced the invisibility of middle age, but I suspect it has nothing on the invisibility of old age.