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With his work Ari would like to change the media narrative of what it means to be older so the world might have vibrant, vivacious role models, just like his grandmother, Bluma.
In his blog, Advanced Style, Ari Seth Cohen celebrates the unique, colourful styles of older models in a series of photographs and, while he concedes there has been a media shift in how brands are now approaching older people, he believes there is long way to go to shift perspectives on ageism.
For time immemorial, the media has decided how the older generation should be represented in society. Modern day marketing would have us believe only the unsavvy of consumers travel the road to 60 years and beyond without their velcro strapped slippers, triple protected life insurance policies and a robust supply of mobility supplements.
With his work, Ari would like to change the media narrative of what it means to be older - not because he is a fully paid-up member of the over-60 club (Ari is in his thirties) - but so the world might have vibrant, vivacious role models, just like his grandmother, Bluma.
“Growing up, Grandma Bluma was my best friend and the only person who made me feel it was ok to be myself, and to express myself through creativity and be a little bit weird! She encouraged me to be curious. She was a librarian, and we would check out stacks of books and pick out pictures and she would ask me what I liked about them; she was the person who encouraged my creativity”.
His grandmother is the reason Ari can’t wait to get old, “to feel that free and wise and have the same presence as she did.” Ari admits he has a positive view of aging because of her.
Moving to New York City “to heal” after his grandmother passed away, Ari became a street photographer of people over the age of 60 and was struck by the vibrant community of older people, expressing themselves through a lens of inimitable, bold styles.
“What I noticed is these people were the antithesis of what we are told ageing is. We see all these things in the media about ageing and decline, all the depressing things that come with ageing, but all I saw were the most fabulous, fashionable people in the city, and they just happened to be 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100. What turns my head is a person can be the most eccentric or the most chic but they have something that feels very unique to them. I think they’re like rebels who are fighting ageism with each accessory and each step that they take.”
“We’re made to feel like we have to follow all these rules, look a certain way and not do this or that and it’s all based on making money and creating fear, making people feel bad and marketing products that will make you feel younger. But if you were to show examples of older people living fully, I truly believe it would allow people to be themselves. Because, societally, we are made to feel invisible.”
“I used to draw pictures of fashionable older women, based on my grandmother’s friends who would come to tea, and I filled pages of these little books when I was 6, 7 or 8 years old. My grandmother always told me the best advice I can give you is to do what you love every, single day, and when I moved to New York City, I felt like the characters from my books had come to life. It feels like my grandmother has sent me this project - and these women - to me in what feels like a magnetic force. It’s because of her I’m doing this and she’s the one who gave me the gift of finding my purpose, so I’m very grateful for that.”
In addition to his blog, Ari has created a documentary which examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers “whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging.”
He has also published several books about the (mostly) ladies of Advanced Style “who enjoy their later years with grace and panache, marching to the beat of their own drummer. These timeless images and words of wisdom provide fashion inspiration for all ages and prove that age is nothing but a state of mind.”