Inspired by her relationship with her ailing grandmother, Brazilian photojournalist Patrícia Monteiro created Life Ever After, a photo series documenting a community of elderly women in New York City that live alone.
“Even with all the rush and fast pace of New York City, many elderly women manage to keep up with their lives in their own rhythm and grace,” Patrícia explains in a statement on her website. “To look at them is also to look at the beauty of life that definitely does not end when you reach your 80s.”
Upon graduating from the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York, Patrícia wanted to create a personal project, something that she had not done before, and that would challenge her in a new way. The result? A beautiful series of portraits that will have you thinking about aging in a different way.
From having dinner with friends, playing cards, visiting a museum, or just applying some makeup, Life Ever After captures a sense of adventure and independence rarely seen among aged.
WYSK connected with Patrícia to hear more about the project:
How did you meet the women featured in your photo series?
PM: I met these women by starting to frequent a Community Center in Chelsea and its senior center. I had a free pass to go to classes and started making connections, until the day I stumbled upon a group of friends that went every week to an Opera class. They were so full of life; it was very nice to see them every week.
One of the women I met was Rita, who invited me to her house, where I explained the idea of photographing independent women and how they live. Claire and Molly are Rita’s friends and later on I met Sonia at a movie class where I also presented myself and ask if anyone was interested in participating. She was excited and offered herself and took me immediately to a friend’s house where they went to play bridge. It was very nice.
In doing the series, what’s the greatest lesson you learned?
PM: I learned to value my life and my time more. As young people we have more energy, but at the same time, by believing we have “all the time in the world,” I think we often take things like that for granted. Most of all I learned how to pay more attention and to listen.
It’s easy for us to underestimate and forget all the experience seniors have to offer, especially when they start losing their memory. But they know so much… and they know so much about us. I remember one of the women telling me about her grandson, and how he was making some poor decisions in life… and I wondered if he ever thought about how well she knows him. “Have you told him that?” I asked her, and she said “Nah… he’s not gonna listen.” Things like that are so common and they shouldn’t be.
What do you hope people will take away from the series?
PM: I hope to communicate love for life, even in the hard moments. Also to show a more positive view on aging. I put a spotlight on these women to remind people that they are still here, doing so much for themselves, and the community, and living through the hardness, just like the rest of us.
Do you keep in touch with the women?
PM: I do keep in touch with them as much as I can. We saw each other before I left for Brazil, and I have spoken with them through email, but when I was still in NY I visited whenever I could. It was always nice to hang out with them.
Unfortunately, Molly (third photo below), the oldest woman I photographed, passed away last August. I came to Brazil for a visit and when I returned I found out from Rita that she had passed away while on a trip with her family celebrating her 99th birthday. Actually, her granddaughter just wrote me asking for pictures, which made me really happy to be able to share that with her!
PM: Now that I’m back in Brazil I am happy to be able to visit my grandma whenever I want to. I am also documenting stories here. There’s so much going on in my country now, so many social and political issues and I want to be able to cover them.