SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging and the National Council on Aging’s National Institute of Senior Centers are proud to announce the winners of our 2015 Healthy LGBT Aging Photo Contest! It was a tough job choosing the winners from the 60-plus wonderful and dynamic photographs entered from all over the world, but our Grand Prize winner is Deborah Craig with her portrayal of “Two Women in a Forest.” Below is our featured interview with Deborah. Click here to view all of the winners and read their stories.
Hi Deborah. Thanks for taking time to talk with us. First off, congratulations on winning the Grand Prize of our 2015 Healthy LGBT Photo Contest! Who are the people in your award-winning photo?
Thank you! It’s a great honor! The woman on the left is Nancy Stoller, retired professor of at UC Santa Cruz; the woman on the right is Joan MacQuarrie, a retired building inspector. It was taken in Northern California, on a women’s land community that has been in existence since the 1970s. This was a work weekend so mostly we were weed-wacking, hacking down brush, etc. This was not a deeply premeditated photo, I did have my good camera out, noticed the beautiful light, and thought the redwoods in the background and the tools and work clothes and women together perfectly expressed the spirit of this women’s land community: making something by working together, taking pleasure in the outdoors and beauty of nature, and, also feeling a sense of obligation as conservators of the land.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Have you always been interested in photography?
My background is a little bit eclectic. I have a degree in history and worked in publishing and as a writer in the tech industry for years, but I also have a lifelong interest in music and the arts. I’ve been taking pictures since I was a teenager and was in the photo department at California College of the Arts in Oakland for four years but didn’t have the funds to complete my degree. Now I teach at San Francisco State University in public health, but I do my best to keep my hand in the arts. I still play music (I’ve played jazz drums since 11!) and have been making health-related short films—including several films about women living with HIV and a current project on lesbians.
That’s exciting! What is the film about?
I hope to focus on lesbians and aging, but very specifically on lesbians aging in communities. (I’m a lesbian and aging myself!) I’m looking into women’s land communities—that’s where the picture was taken—but also retirement communities and RV communities. I hope to show these as three different types of communities that can support lesbians aging in positive ways. I actually think we’re experiencing a first: lesbians (and gay men, of course) aging while out of the closet. In some ways, I see many of these dynamic, political, engaged, and energetic women as role models for aging, not just for LGBT people, but for everyone.
Can’t wait to see it! Back to the photo. Can you tell me what you hope it conveys to people?
I hope it shows the strength, spirit of community, and just plain happiness of women working together in the outdoors. And of course the real beauty of aging.
Do you think there is enough representation of LGBT older adults in the media?
Of course not!! There’s not enough representation of old people, of queers, or of women. So when you add that together, there’s especially not enough representation of older lesbians. We need to have more images, pictures, films, etc., showing older LGBT folks aging in a positive way.
Considering you’re a “lesbian and aging yourself,” what do you think are major issues our LGBT community faces as they age?
I’m guessing there are probably at least several, many of them the same as for anyone who is aging: physical health, mental health, in particular loneliness, low income, etc. I haven’t interviewed seniors who are in the closet, but I definitely hear about them all the time. Many lesbians of course didn’t earn as much as men, and the cost of living has gotten so high. Some lesbians didn’t have children and may not have a family-based support network as they age. Again, those are all just guesses.
Those are pretty good guesses! We actually did a whole report on issues facing LGBT older adults called Out & Visible, and these were all major issues. You know your stuff! To finish up, who would you love to photograph?
Hmmm, a good question. I love photographing older people who have lived rich and full lives and are still full of spunk and inquiry. Maybe it’s a little bit of a cliche, but I think their history really shows on their faces. If you mean a particular person, maybe Jane Goodall or Ruth Bader Ginsberg–women with accomplished lives who have focused on their work not on how they look and who haven’t tried to pretend they are younger than they are. I’d love to photograph any lesbians along those lines too, but none are leaping to mind unfortunately.
That’s okay, I’m sure you’ll think of some in the future. Thanks again for chatting with me!