The world is awash with images of naked youthfulness, mainly young women. A naked older woman is an extremely rare subject and hardly ever portrayed with any sense of desirability.
In 2018 renowned photographer Ponch Hawkes embarked on a project to photograph 500 Victorian women. Calling on women from across the State over the age of 50 from all backgrounds, 432 women, including numerous from Geelong, volunteered to be photographed in the nude to celebrate the diversity and reality of older women’s bodies. Photoshoots were organised in Melbourne, Shepparton and Geelong Gallery. 500 Strong is full of images of older women acting as though they have every right to be seen, ripping their clothes off, stepping out of public invisibility. Participants were encouraged to consider their anonymity and, if they wished, come prepared with a personalised face covering. Some women chose to show their faces.
This epic work by Ponch Hawkes and curated by Jane Scott is a game changer. The body of work is both irreverent and playful. 500 Strong was an engaging and empowering outreach project that premiered in the 2021 exhibition Flesh After Fifty: Changing Images of Older Women in Art.
Image: Ponch Hawkes 500 Strong (i) 2019-2020 (detail) digital print on cotton rag paper. Courtesy of Ponch Hawkes.
For more information visit https://www.geelonggallery.org.au/whats-on