The fashion photographer Tim Walker is known for his work with young ladies like Kate Moss; in his new book, he explores the nature of the photographic eye as it pertains to old age. In The Granny Alphabet, he views “the dying breed of little old ladies who live down the lane” with awe and curiosity.
Inspired by his childhood memories of his own grandmothers, he somehow aims to make sense of both old age and infancy: “children and the elderly have an agreement, a bond, united by both a sense of being out of time and by the brilliantly reckless lack of responsibility,” he tells Telegraph. In photographing these women, he exposes as much about himself as his subjects: the women he shoots stare back at him as they might an inquisitive child, as if to say, “yes, you can look.”
The images are striking and unusual because their subjects are complicit; they share Walker’s sense of exploration and play. Their outfits are unique and impeccable, accented with glimpses into their kitchens and bedrooms. A set of dentures receives the same sense of dignity and majesty as a perfectly rounded beet or a carefully jarred batch of lemon curd; the artist makes the mundane everyday objects in these women’s lives both fascinating and meaningful.
In framing his subjects without judgement, he returns to what photography is in its purest form: an exhilarating and innocent search for connection with someone or something that we might struggle to understand. He writes, “To retain a child's eye when peering through the camera's viewfinder is to see the world as half magic, half horror.” These women, their dress, and their objects are seen as uncanny sites of awe and wonder: they seem other in that they are portrayed as a “dying breed,” but they are also so very familiar, as they live just “down the lane.”
The work is wonderfully beautiful, though I must admit we would love to have seen more diversity in the women he chose to include. Take a look at Walker’s portraits, and let us know what you think in the comments.
Images via Telegraph and Fast Company