2.28.2009

Photography: A Poetic Reflection on Aging

by Emily Norton
Special to iVoryTowerz

Growing old is often equated with creaky joints, memory loss, loneliness, and routine. Through a different lens, however, there is something intensely poetic about the entire process of aging. Fragility and untold memories transform the elderly into portraits of poignancy. Their routine rhythms and unhurried manners are a reminder to slow down, rest, and breathe while we grow ever closer to leaving our swiftly turning earth.

The lens to which I'm referring is not only the eye of the beholder, but also that of KayLynn Deveny's camera. Capturing this often forgotten or overlooked demographic is her specialty; Deveney, her web biography says, "earned a master's degree in documentary photography at the University of Wales, Newport, for which she photographed Edith and Leonard Crawshaw, an elderly couple who lived in a nursing home." One of the most pleasurable characteristics of her work is its transcendent quality. As a body, her narrative photos encompass far more than a brief snapshot of time.

Her spread of Edith and Len, as well as her documentation of Albert Hastings (which she later published in her "first photographic book The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings") produce the same effective character development as a well-written book or movie. By including the endearing quotations of each of her subjects, her images evoke sentiments of familiarity. In The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings, Deveney even allows Hastings to comment on his seemingly conventional daily life. The result is a pleasant juxtaposition of the playful against the profound. For example, Hastings questions one of the portraits of his wrinkly face, "Could this be a presumptive picture of my futuristic soul regarding a past world and friends?" yet in another almost mischievously he reassures us, "I'm not talking to a ghost, I'm opening the curtains."

Deveney is a master of her craft. Every piece echoes her concern and involvement with the individuals she photographs. At the heart of her portfolio is a delight in the simplicities and beauty of old age. Her work is truthful and necessary, for it shows that aging may at times be difficult but is by no means heinous.

(The photo is © copyright KayLynn Deveney and is used with permission.)





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