Posted by: Admin | June 5, 2012

50 Stars in the Making!

Question: What do you get when 50 project50 readers come forward to be photographed and interviewed on their thoughts about life in their fifties? Answer: An Exhibition and a Book of Portraits that Celebrate Life’s Next Adventures!

There is Beauty in Maturity

We are well into the shooting phase of the 50 Facing 50 Exhibition Project. I say “we” because making a portrait is a collaboration between the photographer and subject and I am thrilled and humbled by the number of people who have come forward to collaborate with me on this venture. You’ve fed and watered me, put me up in your homes and generally helped to mitigate the cost of creating this collection of photographs. You’ve given your time, energy and generous advice. Two weeks ago  I travelled to Cheshire, Manchester and Cumbria. Tomorrow I will be on my way to Brighton and Worthing via Hampton. Cornwall and Suffolk and another trip to London are to follow and all the shooting will be complete by mid-July.

I am currently looking at Exhibition space in Northamptonshire, aiming for late October/November, but would dearly love to move the exhibition to other locations over the following months so that we can spread the word as widely as possible – Life can be good in your fifties and beyond!

Why do I think there is a need to spread this message? Well, think about the representation of our age group in the media. Many of us have the greatest disposable income of any age group, yet the ads aimed at us are primarily for incontinence pads, funeral plans and  cruises. I for one don’t relate to that, and nor do those of you I talk to. Nor do I appreciate the suggestion, made without any sense of irony, that I should see if Help the Aged (now amalgamated with Age Concern to form Age UK, actually) would be interested in sponsoring the Exhibition!

Those of you with whom I am currently working are vibrant, active, adventurous, humorous, confident, comfortable in your own skin. 50 does not look the same as it did in our parents’ day. I’ve been struck by the variety of experience I’ve encountered. There’s Sandra, who has changed her job so that she can help look after her grandchildren, and Elaine , the same age, who has a seven year old daughter. Kim is looking forward to early retirement while Deborah is about to set up a new business. There are mountain bikers and runners, gardeners and designers. Musicians and travellers, artists and photographers. Neil took up skiing at 50. Brian shipped his motorbike to Alaska and spent 8 months riding South to Argentina at 56.  And the best of it is that  these opportunities and choices are available to us now in 2012. There is no cookie cutter template for being 50 any more. Anything goes.

The new 50

One thing that we all have in common though is the tendency to pause around the time of our fiftieth birthday and reflect. Where have we been? Where are we now? Where are we going? Am I happy? If not, what am I going to do about it? For me, turning 50 saw the blossoming of a determination to start living life on my own terms, part of which involves trying to work and live both with integrity and enjoyment.

Unfortunately, this can also be a time to overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable, to fight ill health, and deal with emotional upheaval as life changes. We all need to be inspired sometimes.

That is what I hope this project will achieve. project50 is not just about me any more. It never really was. I want the Exhibition and accompanying book to show that we over fifties are a force to be reckoned with and to inspire those who are struggling to adapt to the life changes this period can bring.

The portraits show people being who they are and doing what they love. They show there is beauty in maturity. That there is a whole world of experience beyond the cult of Youth that currently dominates in our society.

If you have read this far, then you too are part of it. Thank you. If you know of anyone who might be interested in helping with either the costs or logistics of this venture, please get in touch. And when the time comes, visit the Exhibition, buy the book, spread the word and keep the faith!

what lies beneath…
© Jo Blackwell Photography



  1. I love this idea. It really is the next adventure. I can say that having just survived the 50s. I hope your book inspires and has wings. Wings enough to fly across the Atlantic, that is.

  2. What a beautiful summary of this project! I will pass on this information to a few others I know in Britain to see if they could help find a few more venues. When I visit, maybe we could talk about the logistics of trying to get the exhibition to the USA as well???

  3. Welcome to the project, Rich! I hope you’ll check back. Thank you for the support, Jill – looking forward to meeting – and shooting – you!

    Hmm – 50 Facing 50 USA – could work! Let’s see what kind of response this one gets then who knows where it could lead us… 😉

  4. Can’t wait! I believe there will be some beautiful people in there……

  5. This all sounds so amazing, so very proud xxxx

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