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The Quiet World of Aging

Melinda Reyes | Boston Massachusetts, United States

Cornelia, 97
I had yet to photograph a woman whose history was defined so clearly on her face. She was born in Greece and moved to the US as a child. Her life in an immigrant family was not easy as they worked long hard hours in the factories. The family's deep connection to their Greek Orthodox faith sustained them during many early hardships. She eventually married and had 2 children. But the tragic death of her son was by far the most difficult part of her life. Her sadness is profound and overwhelming at times, as she mourns his loss along with her spouse's and all of her biological family. She speaks with a very thick accent and her words are mostly about love as her faith has been steadfast. She very openly receives love and returns it as she is always heard telling anyone around her "I love you". Her past may be etched deeply within her physically and emotionally, but it has somehow never tainted her heart.

"The Quiet World of Aging" is an ongoing series that explores and documents the lives of a diverse group of older adults in the state of Massachusetts. The project took shape as I began to witness how oder adults were becoming a hidden population despite their growing numbers as life expectancy is rising. There are approximately 46 million older adults in the US - 1 in 7 people, which I feel demand's an increase focus on Aging. Yet despite the millions, aging if often a taboo subject within a culture based in "staying young". The project takes viewers into the personal lives of individuals who are facing many facets of aging from illness, end of life care, loss, grief, homelessness, uncertainty of their future, and interweaves their experience, strength, and hope. It seeks to give a face,a voice, and testimony to each individual's truth and the truths surrounding aging and humanize the very essence of this important life stage that is inevitable to all of us. 

"The Quiet World of Aging" is a collection of observations and moments portraying the many faces of aging - the beauty, sorrow, joy, despair, and most importantly the dignity with which these individuals carry out their last days. It is a celebration of their history made evident in the details and richness of their eyes, hands, posture, and lines of their skin. Throughout this project, I sought to find an honest and intimate portrayal of aging, to make what I feel is hidden, seen, and to make those who feel invisible, visible. 

This project took shape through my work as a psychiatric clinician in Boston. I was entering spaces where older adults live and die and witnessed them disappearing into the background of society. While many cultures respect the aging process and revere their elders, in Western cultures youth is glorified and aging is often seen as a personal failing or even shameful. I began a personal journey of connecting with individuals in all different settings to hear their stories and explore the deeply embedded stigma of aging.

As "The Quiet World of Aging" takes viewers into direct contact with the diversity of emotions within the aging process, it confronts us with our own mortality while demanding we face our own implicit bias on growing old. By photographing at a close distance, the series offers a penetrating window into the complexities of this final life phase. Each portrait is presented with an individual's story. While my camera gives them a visual voice, the narrative articulates details that a photograph could never convey. 

Through this project, I aim to raise awareness about this vulnerable yet inspiring group of individuals by embracing their identities, honoring their courage, and giving them the reverence they deserve: quite simply, to be seen. 

Melinda Reyes

email : auntiemellie1@yahoo.com

90 Fox Hill Drive

Bridgewater, MA 02324

(781) 510-9863

@melz821

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