This struck me most forcefully when I started looking for images of competitive older sportsmen and women, in digital and online media, in 2010. I’d become interested in visual images and how we ‘read’ them and had gone back to my studies, doing an MA and then a PhD in visual culture in my 50s. In 2010 I was an academic and had started to critique the different ways that male and female elite sports personalities were represented visually on the sports pages.
I decided my next project was going to be looking at the sort of images that were circulating of sportsmen and women of my age, and above. My plan was to write about them. I was a competitive tennis player myself so I knew there were plenty of ‘us’ out there. I did a Google search for ‘older sportsmen and women’ and, to my surprise, found…nothing. Or rather, the word ‘older’ drew up some care-home scenarios of the gloomiest ilk, but the sports side of my search drew a complete blank.
In 2011, I bought my first camera, sought out a photography tutor and set about filling the gap myself. Now, as I head towards my 70th birthday, I’ve left my academic career behind and have evolved into a documenter of positive ageing. Plus, I should say, a passionate anti-ageism activist. I travel the world meeting and photographing extraordinary individuals who still compete in the sports they love right through to the age of 100 and above. To say I’m having a blast would be to put it mildly.
I’ve had exhibitions in America and across Europe, speaking tours in the USA and UK, and media appearances both nationally and internationally. Here’s an introduction to me and my work, and below are a few highlights of my photography and speaking career to date.
I’m very grateful to Danielle Sellwood of Find it Film for making this short film (6 minutes) about my work, as part of the Maverick Generation project we’re both working on together. It pretty much sums up what I’m trying to do, and why.