‘The Crone Project - VISIBLE’ celebrates women over fifty - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

‘The Crone Project – VISIBLE’ celebrates women over fifty

“Fairy Godmother” is one of the images from photographer Cheryl Fair’s The Crone Project – VISIBLE.

It’s no secret that Hollywood has long celebrated the greying of its male icons. From Charlton Heston and Cary Grant to George Clooney, Richard Gere and Harrison Ford, leading men have been able to find work well into their sixties, seventies and beyond.

For actresses, models and other women in the public eye, 40-50 often marks a cruel glass ceiling.

Is there an age in our culture where women start to become invisible? Baltimore photographer Cheryl Fair believes the answer to that question is yes.

Fair’s observation of this inequity led her on a two-year-long photographic journey she entitled, “The Crone Project – VISIBLE.” A collection of vibrant images celebrating women over fifty, The Crone Project will go on display this Friday night at The Gallery Above Mud and Metal on The Avenue in Hampden.

The Crone Project: Cheryl Fair has captured the joy and beauty of women over fifty.

Cheryl Fair has captured the joy and beauty of women over fifty.

“I was frustrated with the lack of images of women ‘of a certain age’ in the media,” explained Fair. “The available images seemed to be very limited in number and concept. I was either finding pictures where they would try to make older women look young and sexy – which is kinda stupid – or the, ‘Oh, look at the weird old person’ shots. I don’t like that because it didn’t seem very realistic to me. Certainly not like me and my friends. I wanted to make some images of women over fifty that were based on how each woman thought of herself.

“The dictionary says that a Crone is an old ugly woman. In folklore, Crones traditionally have magical powers and are often sinister. To me and to many women, Crone means a powerful and wise old woman, who embraces the third act of her life with as much delight and appreciation as she did when she was younger. If knowledge is power, then old women certainly have formidable power!”

Fair’s previous project – the Magical Realism Tarot card deck – offered Post-Examiner readers an intimate look at Fair’s artful style. The Crone Project takes that fanciful mode one step further by incorporating the input of the models.

“The images are evocative portraits, done in the style I am known for. I asked each woman to choose a character or theme that she wanted to portray, based on how she felt inside. Some had fantasy characters and some did not.

The Crone Project - VISIBLE: Another photograph by Cheryl Fair celebrating the Crone phase of life.

Another photograph by Cheryl Fair celebrating the Crone phase of life.

“These are certainly not the only photographs I’ve taken of women over 50, but this group was asked specifically about aging. Fifty seems to be the age when women in our culture start to become invisible. Every woman in the project discussed this “invisibility” with me and agreed that it is demoralizing.”

Fair said the only difference between these portraits and the portraits she normally does for her clients, is that she did not erase signs of aging. “I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t distorting the concept by making them appear younger.”

“The models vary in age from 50 to 78. I found them through a call for volunteers that I put out on my photography page on facebook. Some were referred by their friends who saw the call, or had already participated in the project. They vary in their occupations and identities. Many are mothers, some are grandmothers. Some are divorced or widowed – others are happily married. And some were never married. Some are heterosexual and some are lesbians.

“The caveat is they had to be willing to admit their age. I got a lot of people, but most of the ones in the beginning were just barely over 50. There were still young looking, as a lot of people are. I mean, I shot some women in their 70s who look absolutely amazing. Of course, that wasn’t the point of this project, so I started saying no to people unless they were over 60, and I had young looking people at 60. Eventually, I was just looking for 70 and above.”

The Crone Project - VISIBLE: Cheryl Fair said "I asked each woman to choose a character or theme that she wanted to portray, based on how she felt inside."

“I asked each woman to choose a character or theme that she wanted to portray, based on how she felt inside.”

Fair said that while personal mobility problems somewhat delayed the project (she had knee replacement surgery last spring), it also changed her approach.

“Knee replacement surgery is certainly a ‘you’re no longer twenty’ call. But for me, it offered more mobility. I waited ten years longer than I should have. I was in a lot of pain. But afterwards it was like, ‘Hey! I can walk!’ I felt lighter instead of older.

“Toward the end of the project, the shots were more like straight up portraits, but more intense. It was really based on each person. I didn’t pick what they looked like – they made that decision. It was a collaboration, which is why they look so different from each other.”

We asked Fair about the potential impact of The Crone Project?

“I can easily see workshops that include speakers and doing portraits. I imagine addressing the physical, spiritual and cultural aspects of aging for women, with the culmination being a custom portrait that expresses each individual. My hope, as far as general impact, is to see more images of women middle aged and older, who are seen as individual people, rather than a stereotype. Also, I’d like to inspire younger women to stop worrying about aging. I know that women start worrying about becoming ‘old’ as soon as they are adults. Many women start worrying about it in their 20’s. This is a cultural problem, and we need to resist the pressure to devalue ourselves and others as they age.

“Personally? It’s obviously a way that I was dealing with my own aging issues, and it’s been really interesting.”

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The Crone Project – VISIBLE opens this Friday night, January 5, at 6 PM at The Gallery Above Mud and Metal. Mud and Metal is located at 1121 West 36th Street Baltimore, MD 21211. Normal gallery hours are 10-7 Tuesday – Saturday, and 10-5 Sunday-Monday. For more information, look for The Crone Project on Facebook.  You can also call the gallery at 410-467-8698 or visit Mud and Metal online.

About the author

Anthony C. Hayes

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A one-time newsboy for the Evening Sun and professional presence at the Washington Herald, Tony's poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!, Destination Maryland, Magic Octopus Magazine, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Voice of Baltimore, SmartCEO, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. If you notice that his work has been purloined, please let him know. As the Good Book says, "Thou shalt not steal." Contact the author.

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