Exploring the subject of beauty has been a popular pursuit in creative disciplines like portrait photography, and we see it portrayed in many different ways. We see it a lot in themes and subjects like fashion, the human body, landscapes and nature.
We seek to have beauty in our lives and appreciate seeing it in our surroundings. We give it attention on social media and strive to show the world how we create and capture it.
For Rotterdam-based portrait photographer Laura Zalenga, however, it’s not only found in the youthful faces that grace many magazine covers and dominate screens of all kinds. This idea inspired her to do a portrait photography project to show beauty that is only visible on faces carved by life and the passing of time.
Faces that tell about life
“During my year as an Adobe Creative Resident, I explored the beauty of age, caused by wondering why our beauty ideal still tends to circle around young, smooth skin instead of faces that already tell some life,” Zalenga said in her project statement. “The project seeks to inspire people to show interest in age, to learn about its beauty, to meet elderly people and have conversations and friendships with them.”
For this visual exploration, she created some beautiful and powerful portraits of two women in their 70s at the time. She also picked some simple but also graceful settings that proved effective not only in highlighting their features but also in portraying them as strong and elegant women.
“To me there is something so magical about these two women who are both living on this planet for more than 70 years.”
The poignant project saw Zalenga featuring more faces to showcase what she considered to be the invisible beauty of age, one that has no expiry date and becomes more interesting in time. While she was not the first to find interesting characters and stories in the elderly to photograph, I think she is one of the first to do so with a unique approach to depicting beauty.
A solemn mood to match
For me, this selection stands out compared to the rest of the photos in the project because it has a solemn atmosphere that matches how the women share a timeless grace with nature. It reminds us that the essence of their beauty don’t really fade even with the passing of time or physical change.
I also like how the settings allow the subjects to interact or connect with their surroundings to create a dynamic and emotive image. The mostly neutral color palette is also fitting of the elegance that the subjects exude in their respective portraits. Overall, I think this project is a great initiative that encourages us to look at beauty and aging differently in contrast to what we’ve been conditioned to.
All photos by Laura Zalenga. Used with Creative Commons permission.