Vicki Topaz

In today’s youth culture, it is very difficult to grow old. Again and again, we are offered up heaping platters of seventeen year old faces, or thirty year old faces that have been airbrushed beyond reality, or faces that that have been pulled and tucked into a semblance of youth. There is a constant barrage of anti-aging products pushed towards anyone over 30 and it’s beginning to feel like we don’t want to look at the reality of aging, or faces that are real. There’s no denying that we will all grow old, and if we can accept ourselves with grace, humor, and compassion, we will ultimately be much happier.

That’s exactly what Vicki Topaz is doing with SILVER: A State of Mind. Vicki has begun photographing women as they age and women that have thoughts on this subject. “In human beings the silver quality is an emblem of having been on the planet for a while. And so you’ve learned a few things and so that passing on of what you’ve learned is sacred, it’s a sacred trust. It’s not that every older person deserves that, but lots of them do know quite a lot that we should listen to. It’s something that we don’t honor enough in our culture. It’s not just a matter of equal rights for older people. Young people are getting short-changed if they don’t have in their psychological world the idea not only that they can grow older and be wiser, but also that there are older people around who know a few things.”

Vicki is a San Francisco-based photographer whose interest in cultural and social history, memory and the passage of time informs the imagery in her work. Her project, Silent Nests, which explores the remaining medieval colombiers (dovecots) of northwestern France, drew her to that region for several years. Her first monograph, Silent Nests, published in 2009 by Kehrer Verlag, is the first photographic investigation into a little-known niche of France’s rich cultural legacy.

SILVER: A State of Mind: Aging is a loaded word, perhaps more so for women, regardless of their age. Some thoroughly embrace the process while others fight it tooth and nail. But from whichever camp, there is a lot of active thinking happening today about what that process implies.

The women interviewed and photographed here possess one of the most distinctive outward signs of aging—silvering hair. This shared badge provides an ideal entry into the topic of aging as dilemmas about gray hair lead to other deeper issues about the kinds of personal challenges we all face. The women speak on many themes, from society’s views on aging and feminism to attitudes in the work place, authenticity, and more.

Mildred Howard, artist, b. 1946; Linda Connor, photographer, b. 1944

These photographs aim to capture a sensibility, a spark of energy, the intelligence and beauty conveyed in a glance. Many of the women seem as if they are about to speak, maybe even to address the very questions you may ask of yourself.

Josephine Zeitlin, actor/model

Alice Shaw, artist; b. 1965

Miki Hsu Leavey, painter/teaching artist; b. 1952

Ruby Bhattacharya, business development manager; b: 1972

Joy Perdue, veterinary receptionist; b. 1950

Saraswathi Devi, yoga & meditation teacher; b. 1946

Susan Kim, mother/owner of clothing store; b. 1959

Amy Hempel, writer/animal rights advocate; b. 1951

Maryel Norris, teacher; b. 1947

Adrianne Vincent, integrative medical educator; b. 1957

Jane Alexander, actress/writer/producer/former Chairman, NEA; b. 1939

Grace Lehman, healer/writer/artist; b. 1950

Lisa Dolehide, mother/teacher; b. 1963

Firoozeh Anvari, acupuncturist; b. 1958