Award winning photographer, editor and artist Karsten Thormaehlen based in Frankfurt, Germany has captured gorgeous photos all over the globe of architecture, high-end luxury goods, and fashion models. For his most recent collection of published photos, he's chosen to focus on what he thinks is his most beautiful subject yet: centenarians- or people who have lived at least 100 years of life.
In his book: "Aging Gracefully: Portraits of People over 100," Thormaehlen traveled from New York, to Japan, to Peru, to the Netherlands, and everywhere in between to take portraits of 52 centenarians. Each photograph in the collection is accompanied by insightful and engaging text about each subject that captures their essence, their insight and their wisdom that only comes from living over 100 years on this Earth.
When asked about this project, Thormaehlen is quoted saying:
“Since I’ve worked for many years in the beauty industry as an art director for luxury goods and cosmetic brands, I know what it takes to achieve ‘perfect beauty.’ It’s almost impossible! Like reaching ‘absolute zero’ or ‘squaring the circle.’ I’m convinced true beauty comes from self-awareness.”
Tonaki Tsuru from Japan (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)
While selfies seem to have taken over the internet in recent years, Thormaehlen says very old people look at photography in a completely different way than most:
“Being photographed is and has been something special in the past, only performed on special events, and on certain stages of one’s life: baptism, wedding, first child, all generations together, anniversaries etc. Back then, photographing was a complicated issue, it was expensive — and always very sad if the photo, which you saw days or weeks later for the first time, didn’t come out properly. ... They give me, the photographer, the impression that they enjoy the attention, being photographed. It’s fun for them.”
Secundo Timoteo Arboleda Hurtado from Ecuador (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)
In order to find his subjects, Thormaehlen searched via many avenues: some he discovered through people who had seen his work, some through their grandchildren and some through advertisements or by talking to managers of resident homes. Some he found through online searches.
Olivia Hooker from White Plains, New York (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)
Dr. Olivia Hooker of White Plains, New York, (pictured above) was one of the first African American women to join the U.S. Army. As a child, the Ku Klux Klan ransacked her home during the 1921 riots in Tulsa. "I still don't know why they bothered to burn up a little girl's doll clothes, but they did," she told the Wall Street Journal. When Thormaehlen photographed Hooker, he noted that the walls in her home are filled with diplomas and greetings from the Clintons, the Bushes and the Obamas.
Sigurgeir Jonsson from Iceland (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)
When speaking about the project, Thormaehlen spoke about how the main theme that continued to show up again and again was a shared love of life. Thormaehlen is quoted as saying: "I learned from almost everybody that they love living, 100 percent. They don’t think about dying, but if it happens it won’t be a problem."
Maria Luisa Medina from Ecuador (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)
When visiting one of his subjects at her home in Ecuador, Thormaehlen had to clime a short but steep path to get to her. When Luz met him at the door and saw how hard the photographer was breathing from the climb, she smiled and said, "Hope this answers your question how to become 100!"
Gaspare Mele from Italy (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)
One question Thormaehlen asked all of his subjects was: "What's the secret to your longevity?"
In response to his question, Gaspare Mele from Italy shared: "Live and work in peace and harmony with yourself and with others. Always try and distinguish good from evil."
Most days Gaspare can be found sitting at his kitchen table composing poetry on his timeworn typewriter.
Zoila Donatila Aliaga Melendez vda de Roman from Peru (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)
Zoila Donatila Aliaga Melendez vda de Roman from Peru believes that it's her faith that has allowed her to live so long. She gathers with friends at least twice a day to pray. Zoila has lived a full life - she married at 19 years of age and has 8 children, 21 grand children and 23 great-grandchildren. In addition to praying, she love to spend her time playing cards, knitting and reading.
Gerardus Jacobus Johannes Keizen from the Netherlands (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)
When asked what his secret was, Gerardus Jacobus Johannes Keizen, a centenarian from the Netherlands, said: "A routine life of moderation. Go to bed early, don't smoke, don't drink — although you can always make an exception now and then for a whisky. And for gin, too."
So there you have it - some helpful tools for living a long and vibrant life include: living in harmony with yourself and others, living a life of faith and everything in moderation.
This book is a beautiful contribution to the world.
To find it, you can follow this link: http://amzn.to/2kMpC3g