At first glance this is a monumental tabletop book. It may weigh in as heavy, but it is not to be taken lightly. Within its case-bound pages are 280 pages and 121 nude photos of women from 40-100 years-old. It is beautifully bound and printed and it celebrates body and age diversity, self-love and it questions the classic beauty standards of our society.
Beauty is a word that is often used only in reference to one thing: outer beauty. “I Am” goes deeper with compelling commentary by the women featured.
“I grew up with the conditioning that as life continues, I would get worse, or become a faded version of my previous self,” wrote Cindy (below). “Not just in looks but in all ways. We are all convinced of this viewpoint. We are taught that there is a ‘prime of life’ and once you hit your prime, it’s downhill from there. That is simply not true. I know, because I have experienced it.”
Septuagenarian Pat writes, “Whether good or not so good, I always learned much that helped me to continue forward. Learning never stops.
Someone said, “no experience should go without” – and I mostly agree.
I have also been blessed with good genes and an early foundation in classical ballet, but hard work and discipline were added along the way.
I am proud to share the product of my years, with love and a zest for life.”
In today’s culture young girls are directed by ads to buy this to keep their skin smooth or this to get rid of those unsightly laugh lines. Beauty is a multi-billion-dollar business. The models telling the girls what they should buy are not much older than them. They have never had wrinkles or anything else that would need “fixing.”
“I have learned that the only way to journey through life is by being your authentic self. I am still the same person I was twenty years ago except I have gained some knowledge, lots of experience, a little weight and a few wrinkles,” writes Belinda.
Endless hours are spent working with image-editing software to create “perfect images.” I know because I have spent many hours in front of my monitor “working” on images. I say working because it is work. It took many hours of dedicated eye-weary effort to blend lines; to erase spots; to give the impression of natural light.
In her Foreword, Buettner writes, “While editing the images I always follow my gut. NO retouch is necessary in my eyes. This requires me to work harder to ensure my models end up being seen in a flattering but truthful way. Also, I don’t believe it is necessary to expose flaws in an unflattering way unless it was requested by the model. We featured several women with scars, breast cancer, surgery etc. For some it was important to show these “so-called” imperfections, as they have worked tirelessly to come to terms with them and are often made stronger by accepting them.”
With a project that took more than seven years to complete, Buettner has gone many phases of decision-making, much of was simply arguing with herself on what to include and what not to include.
As a professional photographer in the fashion and advertising fields, she was well-aware of how much time was being spent on perfection. She wanted to take a different approach. Beauty wasn’t to be the manufactured result; honesty and integrity were her guiding lights.
Wanting to take “I AM” away from a voyeuristic artform into more of a photojournalistic approach she offers written insights from each woman to enhance the reader’s experience. Personal notes to accompany each picture; notes that came out as poetic in nature but bursting with integrity and self-awareness.
Simone expresses the cumulative voice in describing what being a part of this project meant to all contributors:
“There are so few female image-makers, and many images that we see today come from a male point of view. We need another perspective. The commercial world tells us that youth and youthful features are the ultimate. But Angelika’s perspective and images tell us stories: scars, freckles, wrinkles, and stretchmarks are our visible life stories. Why, asks Angelika, would we want to retouch this?”
The images could stand on their own merit, but it’s the whole and not the individual parts that enable this book to create its own well-deserved spot on your bookshelf.
IAM-theMovement.com is the new platform to empower women of all ages and to overcome their insecurities about their bodies and aging.