Frustrated by the way aging in women is seen in Polish society, Wika Wójcikiewicz has set out to debunk the myth that life ends after 50.
“What is the difference between my body and a woman who’s 70 years old? It’s literally just wrinkles,” asserts the soon-to-be photography graduate Wika Wójcikiewicz.
Having spent a good part of the past six months on the road, Wika has travelled across her home country Poland to capture the inner lives of four women in their 70s who are not satisfied with being contained to an outdated view of what it means to get older.
Her finishing project for her bachelor’s in photography at London College of Communication “Life is not boring, you are”, goes beyond what is normally seen of “women of a certain age” and documents their colorful lives.
“Many young people consider age as something that we should be scared of, as something lonely, boring and full of limitations. We are told that our minds and bodies are the most beautiful in our 20s, hence we should enjoy it until we can, indicating one day it will finish,” she says, adding that older people often feel forgotten by society.
She was first inspired to investigate the way women in the later parts of their lives are seen after seeing a music video by Polish singer Maria Peszek featuring older women floating nude in a lake.
“It was shocking, because you don’t really see much nudity in my country because it’s Catholic.” She explains that nudity in general, but in particular by older women, is expected to be kept inside the house and not out in the open.
Not being able to get the video out of her head, Wika decided to reach out to some of the women who were featured in the clip to get to know more and propose a new project.
With two women from Peszek’s video and two from her own network deciding to join – each of them having different reasons for being in the project – she underlines that her focus was not necessarily to show nudity but to use photography as a tool to connect to another generation.
With her all-female crew, she has traveled around Poland, staying with the four women and getting to know their routines, quirks, and desires. Each shoot reflects an idea raised by one of the women who would co-direct the team to reimagine their living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms as spaces that could embody mantras about freedom, confidence, and playfulness.
“It was just genuinely a fun time,” says the 22-year-old photographer.
As a stand-up comedian, Ms. Basia is used to the limelight. She admits that she loves the camera and constantly looks for lens-based opportunities and a chance to work with young people. Wika describes her as “fire”.
“Do we always need to find a bigger purpose? I am participating in this project because once an opportunity comes my way, I cannot say no to it,” says Ms. Basia.
“No one knows how much longer I will be on this planet. I want to enjoy it as much as possible. My happiness is the most important to me.”
“She loved it,” Wika recounts about her interaction with Ms. Ewa. A retired psychologist and a photographer herself, now has the chance to be in front of the camera. Living in a catholic country, she points out the double standard of what is seen as acceptable.
“We live in a prudish society. People do really horrible stuff and it’s dismissed. I am showing a bit of my nudity and people see it as inappropriate,” says Ms. Ewa.
“I am 70 years old; I cannot look like 20 years old. Give me a break!”
Currently fighting a tumor, Ms. Dorota is not ready to give in to her illness. She wants to take the bull by the horns and enjoy creative processes as long as she can.
“Through deep analyzing of myself, I have finally started liking myself. I feel the most confident now,” she says.
“However, you all have to remember that confidence is something that has to be built.”
Ms. Gosia is Wika’s aunt. Today, she spends time taking care of an older relative, but in her youth, she was a musician. “She has a beautiful voice,” says Wika.
Wishing to take part in the project to feel beautiful again and to vary her everyday life, Ms. Gosia reveals that she has never felt as peaceful and confident as now.
For Wika, seeing the confidence and enjoyment of life that the women have has put a new perspective on ageing and she hopes it will for others too.
“They had an entire life to like themselves and this is the time when they finally do. That’s also the reason why they participated in that because they love themselves. I think it’s beautiful.”
“They definitely made me not be scared of getting old.”