Portrait Week: Melinda Reyes: The Quiet World of Aging
Several years ago, I came across the work of Melinda Reyes, whose empathy for her elderly portrait subjects is apparent in every single image. I was completely drawn into her portraits, whether those featured here in “The Quiet World of Aging,” or those in “Inside the Walls: An Intimate Look at our Elders During Covid-19.” Melinda works with the elderly as a psychiatric clinician, and through her photography she shares her understanding, compassion, and depth of knowledge of those who are often unseen.
The Quiet World of Aging
“The Quiet World of Aging” is a collection of portraits and personal narratives that convey the many faces of aging: the beauty, sorrow, joy, despair, and most importantly the dignity with which these individuals carry out their remaining days. It is a celebration of their history made evident in the details and richness of their eyes, hands, posture, and lines on their skin. Throughout this project, I sought to find an honest and intimate portrayal of aging, to make what I feel is hidden, seen, and to make those who feel invisible, visible.
This project took shape through my work as a psychiatric clinician in Boston. I was entering spaces where older adults live and witnessed them disappearing into the background of society. While many cultures respect the aging process and revere their elders, in Western cultures youth is glorified and aging is often seen as a personal failing or even shameful. I began a personal journey of connecting with individuals in different settings to hear their stories and explore the deeply embedded stigma of aging.
As the project evolved, I became increasingly compelled to share the truths I saw, heard, and experienced.
As “The Quiet World of Aging” takes viewers into direct contact with the diversity of emotions within the aging process, it confronts us with our own mortality and demands we face our own implicit bias on growing old. By photographing at a close distance, the series seeks to connect viewers on a more personal level to the complexities of this final life phase. I aim to raise awareness about this vulnerable yet inspiring group of individuals by embracing their identities, honoring their courage, and giving them the reverence they deserve: quite simply, to be seen.”
Melinda Reyes is a Massachusetts-based photographer deeply driven by social justice. After earning a BFA in Photography at Rochester Institute of Technology, Reyes traveled throughout the United States and Europe working as a freelance photographer and in studios, labs, and galleries. In 1987 she attended a year-long photography residency program at Salzburg College in Austria, and ten years later became invested in social welfare and advocacy, earning a Master’s in Social Work at Simmons College. Currently fusing both professional paths, Reyes utilizes the power of documentary photography to initiate awareness and change in vulnerable populations, such as children, the homeless, and the elderly.
Her series The Quiet World of Aging has exhibited nationally, including a solo exhibitions at The Brush Gallery and Art Studios in Lowell, MA and the Flora T.Little Art Gallery in Bridgewater, MA. Her work has also been shown in group exhibitions which include: Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts, The PhotoPlace Gallery, The Perfect Exposure Gallery and The Photographer’s Eye. “The Quiet World of Aging” was a finalist in Photolucinda’s Critical Mass in 2019 and was selected to be part of the 9th edition of Photoville’s Fence. It has been published in both magazines and books. Her other documentary series include “Inside the Walls: An Intimate Portrait of our Elderly during Covid-19” which gained national attention and awards and shown in a solo exhibition, group exhibitions, and multiple books. Her other work includes “Children of the Projects” Boston, MA, which followed a group of children as they navigated life amidst poverty and violence in a Boston housing project, and Nuns of a Different Order, Boston, MA, 1998-2000, an intimate portrayal of life as a cloistered nun. Her developing series, Being Latina, 2019-ongoing, explores the changing identity of Latinas across ethnicity and generations.
Follow Melinda Reyes on Instagram: @ melz821
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