They’re still standing — and running, hurdling, pole-vaulting, javelin-throwing, and shot-putting!
“Racing Age,” a photography exhibition currently on display at United Photo Industries in Dumbo, features snaps of elderly athletes in action. The show is intended to challenge the notion that older bodies are only good for water aerobics and shuffleboard, said the artist responsible.
“I’ve always been really interested in movement, subculture, sports, and things that shake up stereotypical ideas of people,” said photographer and Prospect Lefferts Gardens expat Angela Jimenez, who recently moved to Minneapolis after 12 years in Brooklyn. “These athletes are setting records that explain what a human being is capable of doing. The body is getting stronger. People are living longer.”
Shot on a friend’s Hasselblad camera, the 14 black-and-white images and three audio pieces in the show were captured at masters track and field meets in Kentucky, Maryland, and Italy over four years beginning in 2007. Age divisions for masters competitions begin at 30, but “Racing Age” specifically documents senior sportspeople who are a decade or so past retirement age, said Jimenez. The shutterbug said she intentionally used a medium-format camera for the project to slow herself down — without an internal light meter and with manual exposure, focus, and frame winding, her process became as mechanical as the athletes’ movements.
“The athletes’ bodies are slower and more ponderous, and shooting the pictures was slower and more ponderous,” said Jimenez. “I really wanted people to see the wrinkles and texture in the skin and to focus on the shape of the bodies and the way that they were moving. In the show, you can see the difference in muscle tone and physiology between someone who’s 74 and someone who’s 95.”
Jimenez also found kinship with her subjects in other ways. One woman, an 82-year-old black athlete named Johnnye Valien, proved especially memorable, she said.
“She’s a multi-event athlete, which is what I did,” said Jimanez. “There’s an audio piece in the show where she talks about the limited opportunities that she had as a black woman. She was in college in the 1940s. That’s way before Title IX and any of the opportunities that I had.”
Jimenez earned the solo show at United Photo Industries as the jury’s choice winner of the Fence, an annual summer photography installation that features work from 40 photographers displayed on a banner along a walking path in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
“Racing Age” at the United Photo Industries gallery [111 Front St. Suite 204 between Washington and Adams streets in Dumbo, (718) 215–9075, www.unitedphotoindustries.com]. Show runs through Jan. 23, 2015. Free.