Photographer seeks 'extraordinary' over-80s

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Photographer Laura Page has been named winner of the fourth annual Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award for her proposal to show "extraordinary lives" of Britons over 80.

Laura PageImage source, The Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award

Ms Page (seen above) aims to challenge ageism in the UK and to show older people in a fresh light, particularly after the coronavirus pandemic has focused many people's attention on their vulnerability.

The Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award will fund the freelance photojournalist with a £2,000 bursary and £1,000 worth of printing for a subsequent exhibition.

Her project, entitled The Hidden Depths, will be a series of portraits of people aged over 80, with the aim of capturing "the daily lives of a diverse and surprising range of people".

Ms Page will have to wait until after lockdown restrictions lift before she can undertake the project in a safe manner.

Previous work by Ms Page includes exploring the impact of gentrification in Sheffield.

Image source, Laura Page
Image caption,
A portrait of Roy, who lives in a van on a travellers' site. He is soon to be evicted so a new sports complex can be built
Image source, Laura Page
Image caption,
A picture taken for a project with Sheffield University and the National Transport Museum, which looks at how we adapt to spaces
Image source, Laura Page
Image caption,
A portrait of Chizaram

"[Winning this award] means a lot to me both in terms of professional support and also being given the chance to represent older people in a positive and empowered way," Ms Page said.

"Particularly during these current times when many stories we are hearing relating to older people are unhappy ones."

Ms Page has already been in contact with an 81-year-old ballet dancer and an 80-year-old DJ.

The Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award supports early to mid-career professional photographers by mentoring and funding projects that focus on human stories with a social or political context.

Last year's award saw winner Chrystal Ding travel to Rwanda to document group therapy sessions for survivors of the genocide of 1994.

Rebecca Vassie (seen below) was an international photojournalist who moved to Uganda for her work. Her photos were published in The Guardian and The Washington Post, and she worked on longer projects with Uganda's transgender community and Olympic hopefuls.

Image source, Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award

Rebecca died in 2015 at the age of 30, from complications related to an asthma attack she suffered while documenting a refugee community.

Her mother, Janet Vassie, judged this year's award alongside Caroline Hunter (picture editor of Guardian Weekend Magazine), curator Jennifer Thatcher, photographer Ben Bird, theatremaker and journalist Adam Barnard, and BBC News' Phil Coomes.

"Lauraʼs passion was the first thing that struck me," said Ms Vassie.

"I am really excited about The Hidden Depths. It definitely feels like a story ‒ or set of stories ‒ waiting to be told."

Ms Page is currently searching for subjects to photograph; she would like to hear from people who are over 80 who have unusual lives or pursuits.