As many baby boomers age, the daily rituals of their mothers and grandmothers will begin
to fade. Beauty and Wisdom documents a disappearing aspect of American culture, and a
diminishing population of women who have been going to the beauty parlor once a week—not
as a luxury, but as a necessity—for most of their adult years. This project explores the
grace and courage in which these women age in a society so heavily focused on the beauty
of youth. Ironically, these are the women who opened doors for future generations and now
they are part of an overlooked generation.
The subjects in Beauty and Wisdom, all 70 and above, live in a culture where the ideal of youth is highly valued yet the beauty of aging is often ignored. In beauty parlors across America, this fading generation of women share their humor and wisdom, as I learned in New Orleans when Mrs. Guste, 88, who lost every piece of her jewelry when her house was looted after Hurricane Katrina, reminded me, “everything is borrowed and when it goes away, it’s time to give it back.”
Beauty and Wisdom provided insight into my own future. As I photographed these golden ladies and listened in on their conversations with their hairdressers and looked into their eyes, I saw the kind of courage that comes from embracing life fully without expectations, except to be happy and connected to people. There was not an ounce of shame present—maybe shyness—but no shame. Their “take me as I am” attitude has given me permission to age fearlessly, with no regrets and reasons to look forward to my own aging process. These women may be invisible to many, but they are quite visible to me. More important than their weekly ritual of going to the "beauty parlor" is the fact that these women are extremely vibrant, wise and humorous—and committed to maintaining their life-long ritual for rejuvenation and connection.