It’s Never too Late to Start Photography


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Photography: Julie Kertesz

Photography might be a popular pastime and a crowded profession but each photographer brings something unique to the camera. That could be something as simple as an exotic location and as rare as specialized knowledge of an esoteric topic.

But it could also be a lifetime of experience that affects the way the photographer sees the world — and how they express what they see too.

That’s particularly true for people who take up photography late in life. They might not have decades of playing with light and handling equipment to draw on, but old-new photographers do have maturity, confidence, and perhaps most important of all, the time and patience to learn.

“When it comes to appreciation, critique or interpretation of a photo, the seniors can be expected to have a balanced point of view,” says Kamala Lakshminarayanan, a retired school principal in India, and a member of Flickr’s Senior Moments, a group for photographers aged over 50.

“Also they can be expected to bring out good photographs because of their experience and practical observation of the world around.”

For Kamala, an interest in photography began in 2002 when her daughter gave her an Olympus digital camera. She joined Flickr, learned the basics, discovered how to appreciate good photography and found that her new knowledge increased her passion for the subject.

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Photography: Kamala Lakshminarayanan

Like many photographers, she says that she shoots anything that appeals to her, particularly sunrises and sunsets, flowers and animals. But being in India also gives her access to colorful festivals and ornate temples to practice her new skills.

And by using a digital camera, the penalty for the mistakes made during that practice is now low while the rewards for a good image cost little too. Both of those can be important considerations for retiree photographers:

We can afford to experiment with digital photography as not much cost is involved and we can edit or print photos by ourselves using a computer and printer.

It’s that freedom to practice freely during the days after retirement without worrying about the expenses that can really make a difference to a photographer’s development. Says Julie Kertesz, a 73-year-old photographer now living in France:

I love the change from film to digital: I was taking too many pictures even before and [it] cost me too much… [W]hen I bought tentatively my first Sony 3-megapixel cybershot [in 2002], my life was transformed.

Julie took 10,000 pictures in her first year with a digital camera, has been active on Flickr since it was in Beta and has been blogging about her experiences in photography for almost three years. She also runs the !Afterclass! group on Flickr which over the last nineteen months has collected over 2,100 members who take it in turns to set new challenges, lead masterclasses and explore monthly themes.

“The group is my main work now,” Julie says, “other than blogging and being a grandmother.”

Julie’s blog is fittingly called “Il y a de la vie après 70 ans” (“There is Life after 70”) and in addition to writing, shooting and playing with the grandkids, she still travels extensively. Last year, Julie visited Morocco, Ireland and her native Romania, creating plenty more chances to try out new photographic techniques.

Interestingly, many of the images in Julie’s photo stream are of other senior citizens, including one short series of a 90-year old. It’s possible that being closer in age to the subject creates a better rapport, helps the subject to open up and leads to a better image. It’s equally possible that it’s hard for younger people to refuse a camera-wielding grandmother. It’s no surprise then that Julie says that portraiture is her favorite genre and runs another group called “Never too old to enjoy life” which she describes as being “all about people.”

Of course, the relationship between photography and senior citizens flows both ways. While seniors are able to bring time, a novel view and a willingness to experiment to photography, practicing the art can affect them too — and perhaps create a new opportunity:

“I look differently at the world now after taking up photography and learning from different teachers and pictures on flickr (and books too),” says Julie. “Today my 7-year old grandson told me, ‘Mamie, you should become a professional photographer.’”

Did you take up photography late in life? Tell us about your experiences here.

[tags] senior photographers [/tags]


One comment for this post.

  1. julie70 Kertesz Said:

    Thank you for the interesting reportage.

    I do take also many young people, but posting kids images are more contraversial then taking those older and showing "there is life after...n years", it also gives me courage to see and take images of people, often older then me and happy with what they have in life.

    Also, probably they have more patience to stay for more then one photo without rushing farther. But between my 2000 portraits or so, all ages are represented: I do not belive in generation gap.

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