Challenging Stereotypes while Raising Funds
By Kristian Partington
As a photographer, Laura Emptage has been in many different locales focused on a wide range of subjects. Shots of nightclub scenes and concert venues and the musicians and revelers who partied within them eventually paved the way for wedding photography and family portraits.
On a bright summer day in mid-2016, she discovered a new group of muses when she photographed the Calendar Girls from The Village of Winston Park in various settings and in various states of undress. The implied nudity offers a fun edge to the photos, compiled now in a calendar being sold to raise funds for The Cancer Research Society and the village’s Dream Wish Project. With an average age of 91, the ladies prove that beauty is ageless, and Laura was pleasantly surprised to see a sense of playfulness among the ladies that she didn’t realize existed in the later years of life.
“I was pretty blown away by all the fun the ladies actually had,” she says. “The fun was pretty contagious. Women of that age aren’t usually portrayed as beautiful so to see them strut their stuff, you saw the vibrant, youthful sexuality come out which was really cool.”
“I wasn’t expecting that femininity to come out. Maybe I’ve sort of bought into that idea that sexuality and femininity dies with age, but I was happily surprised to see that that was still in there at 90. I just smiled the whole day.”
Anneliese Retterath was one of the original Calendar Girls photographed for the 2015 edition and she jumped at the chance to once again pose for the cameras. As she looked over this year’s edition for the first time, she smiled and laughed aloud.
“I really look like an old lady,” she says through the laughter. “Anyway, with 90 years, you can look like that!”
She says the firefighters at the local fire hall who agreed to share their space were a little surprised when the ladies disrobed, but everyone had a lot of fun with it. And knowing the funds are raised for two good causes is all the more reason to smile. This year’s calendar is dedicated to the memory of one of the original calendar girls who died of cancer, Anneliese points out, as well as the wish fund which helps Winston Park residents make small dreams come true.
Beyond these causes, however, lies the fact that a group of ladies between the ages of 86 and 102 showing off their natural beauty helps shatter stereotypical views on life in old age.
“I like to be involved and act lively,” Anneliese says. “No, not act lively, be lively. “When you come to this age, you don’t want to sit there and say, I’m ready to die, and that’s what a lot of people do. You have to have a good outlook on life and enjoy life why you’re still there.”
It’s clear from the smiles on their faces that the Calendar Girls are enjoying every minute of it.