- Photographer Elinor Carucci captures the beauty and complexity of middle age in her latest photo book "Midlife."
- Carucci chronicles her own journey of being middle-aged through a series of intimate photos and self-portraits.
- The photos document her life as she ages, showing her gray hair, intimate moments with her husband, and how her relationship with her children has changed over time.
- Carucci told Insider that there are natural challenges that come with aging, and that it's also an important time to celebrate the beauty in growing older and wiser.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Elinor Carucci's book "Midlife," gives a look at what it means to be "middle-aged."
"Midlife," published in October 2019, features photographs taken by Elinor Carucci and includes a foreword written by Kristen Roupenian.
In the photo book, Carucci highlights the complexities of being at the middle of one's life.
"I wanted to talk about aging, about the kids getting more distant and leaving soon, about my 25 years of marriage with my husband," Carucci told Insider. "I wanted to talk about love, connection, joy, pain, loss, and the things that will never come back."
Carucci was inspired to begin documenting her midlife journey as she felt that the age group was being largely ignored and left out of societal conversations.
"I was telling my friends that I'm doing a body of work about being middle-aged, they were like, 'Don't say it! Don't say it!'," Carucci said. "Then I'm like, 'Why not? We're not at the end, we're not dying, we're in the middle of our lives, this is such a beautiful time.'"
Noticing that the subject of middle age seemed to be taboo among her female friends, Carucci wanted to start a positive conversation about the topic.
"We're in the height of our professional lives, we're in the middle of our career — something we worked so hard for," she said. "There is so much to talk about. We're smarter, we love more, and we feel more. There is a lot to celebrate."
The intimate photos in the collection were created from deeply personal aspects of Carucci's life.
Before she could talk about some of the universal themes of aging, Carucci said she knew she had to be vulnerable and embrace her experiences of middle age.
Many of the photos in "Midlife," include her family, and show her changing relationship with her daughters, mother, and husband. The reason Carucci said she chose to include them was because she wanted to take a deeper, more meaningful dive into the subject.
One photo in the series features an image of Carucci gazing at her daughter, who is looking down, avoiding eye contact, and is being comforted by her grandmother.
The image is captioned, "My mother wants me to forgive my daughter." Each subject's facial expression in the photo suggests there is a complex relationship between them.
The book includes a mix of candid and staged photos that examine and reflect on the larger themes of life such as change, family, and intimacy in the context of aging.
"I wanted to create universal themes to talk about aging, love, pain, and loss. If you are a human being, a lot of those things exist in your life," Carucci explained. "I was trying to create images that were seducing and that had aesthetic qualities to them, but at the same time, I wanted them to talk about deep, and sometimes complex, difficult issues."
Carucci's photos are unapologetically raw, highlighting both the challenges and beautiful moments that can come with middle age.
Some of the defining factors that come with being middle-aged, such as graying hair and aging skin, are often masked by society. However, those are just some of the aspects of midlife that Carucci emphasizes and celebrates in the book. For example, she conveys the message that gray hair doesn't just symbolize aging; it can also represent wisdom.
"I think this is such a rich time in our lives that is filled with a deeper understanding of things, and deeper sense of love and of compassion," Carucci said. "We are wiser and have a better understanding of life's lessons."
The self-portrait style photos that make up the collection give viewers an up-close look at the photographer's personal life.
"Many times I'm creating my work from my life, because it's in my life where I know the best, where I can go the deepest," she reflected. "It's in my life where I know the fights, the difficulties, and the complexities."
Given the complex nature of aging, Carucci says the photos were "difficult to create" because she wanted to figure out how to talk about middle age in a deep and meaningful way.
Carucci told Insider that one of her biggest struggles was figuring out how to properly tell her story in a relatable way.
"I think [the biggest challenge] was how to talk about middle age in a deep sense of the word," she said. "It was a challenge to figure out how to describe the complexities, how not to stay on the surface, how not to fall into clichés, and how to really talk about what things mean."
For some photos in the collection, such as "Red #1," 2014, Carucci used her own blood to create red abstract paintings. In the book's afterword, she refers to red as "the color of an angry loss that I feel."
Carucci said the project helped her feel more connected to herself during middle age.
"I think that this is maybe the most original body of work I have ever created," Carucci said. "Taking these pictures has helped me connect more, understand more, see more, and feel more."
Carucci said that "Midlife" has been met with an overwhelming emotional response from readers.
Carucci said that many people felt inspired and empowered after seeing her work.
"This body of work just made people appreciate and celebrate being in their 40s or 50s," she said. "It reminds them what this time in our life contains and that we can enjoy it. We can get over some of the pains and really enjoy this age that is so rich and so beautiful."
In the photo captioned "Kiss trace, 2015," a young boy is pictured with a bright-red lipstick stain in the shape of a kiss mark on his cheek. Carucci is wearing the same lipstick color, implying that she gave her son a kiss, hinting at one of the intimate moments shared between a mother and her child. However, she also has her hands around his neck in the photo, suggesting a conflict in their relationship.
She hopes that her body of work is able to help change the conversation around being "middle-aged."
Through her work, Carucci hopes readers are inspired to see aging as a more positive and beautiful experience. She also wants to encourage more women to curate their own art and tell their stories through it.
"We need more female curators. I want to see more women's work being acquired by museums," Carucci said. "I want to see more women exhibiting and selling their work. I really hope this will change in the future."
You can learn more about "Midlife," and some of Carucci's other projects on her website.
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