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In a Series by Amber Shields, the Aging Female is Celebrated

Posted by on June 1, 2018 | Student Photography

Johanne, 2007

“Historically, the aging female body has been marginalized in Western mainstream media,” says photographer Amber Shields in a statement about “Visions of Johanne – The Aging Female Body,” a series that captures her grandmother, Johanne, during the last fifteen years of her life.

“It is rarely seen, much less celebrated, and it remains virtually invisible to younger female generations,” Shields continues. “This exclusion not only maintains rigid ideas about beauty, ability, and health, but also disempowers and disengages women by stigmatizing a pivotal phase of life.”

In the series, Shields captures Johanne as she wrestles with macular degeneration, breast cancer, and eventually her own mortality. Her suffering is on full display, but so are her strength and beauty. Born in the “Greatest Generation,” Johanne overcame an abusive marriage and the stigma of single motherhood to build a successful life for her family.

Stories like Johanne’s need to be put on display more, if only to let young women know that aging has its own dignities, and beauty is a fluid concept, not limited to a certain type of flawless body. There’s so much strength in that message.

Based in Austin, Texas, Shields received her MFA in Photography from San Jose State University in California and a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana. To view more of her work, visit her website, or follow her on Instagram.

Below is a selection of images from the series. All images © Amber Shields.

Paper Shirt

The Good Breast

Pills

Thanksgiving at hospital

Cars and legs

Untitled, 2014

Chest scan

Johanne’s hands

Daytrip

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