CULTURE & ARTS
02/27/2017 11:11 am ET Updated Mar 01, 2017

Getting Older Is A Thing Of Beauty In These Portraits Of Centenarians Around The World

Photographer Karsten Thormaehlen wants you to lose your fear of aging.
Karsten Thormaehlen

The first centenarian ― or person over 100 ― that Karsten Thormaehlen photographed was his friend’s grandmother.

“I was impressed by her presence, her knowledge and liveliness,” Thormaehlen told The Huffington Post of the experience, which occurred in Berlin in 2006.

Thormaehlen’s been taking pictures of centenarians ever since. He reaches out to senior institutions, local newspapers and the tourists offices in the places that he travels.

“Most centenarians are well known in their communities, it proves life is worth living there,” Thormaehlen said.

The Internet also helps him seek out subjects, and helps subjects and their families find him. Recently, for example, he was contacted by someone from Russia, who shared photos of her grandfather, a WWII veteran who fought against the Nazis. Thormaehlen hopes that he can eventually take the man’s portrait and include him in future projects.

His current project, Aging Gracefully, is a photo book collecting the people he’s captured on camera. In one portrait, a French woman’s close-cropped crew cut feels like a contemporary look, but her necklace is timeless. In another, a Japanese woman grins, showing her stark-white teeth.

“The faces always reflect most of people’s character and somehow we think, we can read about their life in it,” Thormaehlen said. “An old face, with all its lines stimulates people’s minds and they start considering what kind of person they are looking at.”

To emphasize each subject’s individual features, Thormaehlen made sure to home in closely and to rid the images of any background clutter.

“The readers should reflect and compare, and ask themselves what they can do for society if they are around for a few decades after retiring,” Thormaehlen said. “People should lose a bit of their fear about age and aging.”

Check out more images from Aging Gracefully, published by Chronicle Books, below:

  • Zoila Donatila Aliaga Melendez vda de Roman
    From Peru
    Karsten Thormaehlen
    From Peru
  • Henriette Rosa-Maria Cathala
    From France
    Karsten Thormaehlen
    From France
  • Berta Maria Frieda Preiss
    From Germany
    Karsten Thormaehlen
    From Germany
  • Johanna Spiekermann
    From Germany
    Karsten Thormaehlen
    From Germany
  • Jose Javier Delgado Jaramillo
    From Ecuador
    Karsten Thormaehlen
    From Ecuador
  • Kiyo Aragai
    From Japan
    Karsten Thormaehlen
    From Japan
  • Secundo Timoteo Arboleda Hurtado
    From Ecuador
    Karsten Thormaehlen
    From Ecuador
  • Tonia Nola
    From Italy
    Karsten Thormaehlen
    From Italy
  • María Luisa Medina
    From Ecuador 
    Karsten Thormaehlen
    From Ecuador 
  • Olivia Hooker
    From USA
    Karsten Thormaehlen
    From USA
  • Karsten Thormaehlen

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misidentified Thormaehlen’s gender.

 

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