Dada Masilo

Grace Eden's 'Glowing Older'

12 September 19 words: Alex Kuster

In a world surrounded by Love Island bozos and Instagram zombies, it is refreshing to be reminded of other celebrations of beauty. I had the pleasure of meeting Grace Eden, who talked me through her exceptionally unique and stunning exhibition 'Glowing Older'. Grace has put together a series of portraits of the older generation, which are currently on display at St Peter's Church.

Photographer Grace Eden came to the light at Nottingham's 'Off Centre' photography festival, where she was noticed for her unique talents by Suzannah Bedford from The Renewal Trust. Suzannah said that Grace's style of portraiture really spoke to her, both women agreed that they wanted to find a meaningful way to put older people at the centre of the project and celebrate their beauty. In the age of all things digital, it can be a very scary though to grow older and with more people wanting to prolong the beauty of youth, it was so refreshing to see Grace present beauty in her own way. 

So, they did out a callout on BBC Radio Nottingham in search of older participants who were willing to partake in the project. Grace orchestrated, styled and photographed them herself, with mostly all of her own props and equipment and a few bits borrowed from the Nottingham Community Wardrobe.

It was really moving for me to meet Grace and hear about how her past led her to this project. She was very open to talk about her own struggles with mental health and being a full-time carer for her father who has Parkinson's. Grace shared that she discovered photography through The Recovery College, where she was asked to try and find creativity and mindfulness through photography. Her first photography were taken on a Motorola Razor phone, so all of her current skills are completely self taught. And you would never suspect, because her photographs are truly a work of art. I overheard one man at the exhibition asking if they were paintings on glass slabs. 

Grace took the time to talk me through the story behind each elderly person and their photograph. There is so much history embedded within them. Not only was Grace bringing in her own passions by paying homage to the styles of Rosetti and Rembrant; painters which she greatly admires, but the participants brought relics from their own family histories to the shoots. 

Life is beautiful, so enjoy it.

Elaine Godley, who was present at the launch, told me that within her photograph she can be seen sewing her grandfather's Christening robe while sitting on her parent's gardening stool. In the background is her grandparents bedpan. You can also see a silk scarf, which she explains was given to her grandmother by a Spanish soldier whom she helped during the civil war. That is three generations that have been captured within one image. 

So much thought went into each individual's photo. Grace's own father, David Sims, can be seen clutching a bag of money. Grace shared that although he is a thoughtful and kind man, his Dementia makes him feel as though everyone is stealing from him. Grace inserts humour in a very scary illness, and said "life is beautiful, so enjoy it" whilst we look at her work. 

There were so many stories being shared that day. And even without the context, the photographs are moving and different. Some mischievous, some thought provoking, some humorous, all beautiful. Each of them glowing in their own special way. 

They are available to view at St Peter's Church until Friday, September 27th.

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