The body of an older woman also deserves to be loved.
Interview by Ana Marques Maia for P3 Público (Translated from Portuguese by Diogo Duarte. Original article here.)
For a woman, growing old can be a challenging process. Jessica Mitchell, the protagonist of Diogo Duarte's photographic series 'Sour-Puss: The Opera', felt "contradictory emotions" as she grew older, she confessed to P3. "On one hand, I felt sensual, powerful and with an interesting life story to tell", she explained. "But on the other hand, I became worried about death and acutely aware of the fact our society loses interest in women of my age, with bodies like mine." It was Diogo's objective to challenge stereotypes of beauty and ageing and so Jessica decided to reveal herself to the Portuguese photographer, courageously and shamelessly. Jessica loves her body and "everything it represents".
Diogo Duarte loves, as a photographer, to confront his audiences with unusual images that might provoke discomfort, he explained to P3. But that wasn't the point when he developed Sour-Puss: The Opera, which will be exhibited at the Celeiro da Patriarcal in Vila Franca de Xira for it's 15th Bienal of Photography from the 25th January. "The body of the mature woman is frequently ignored in many, if not all, areas of society", contests the 31 year old photographer. "In fairy tales, the mature woman is often associated with witchcraft, with something that should be feared; I think that archetype has somehow penetrated our collective subconscious. [With this project, ] I want to show that the mature woman doesn't have to be seen that way."
The recent controversy caused by author and director Yann Moix, who stated that women above 50 years old are "too old" to be loved, didn't go unnoticed by Diogo Duarte. And it is exactly in the opposite direction that his project takes us. "His comments validate and cement the archaic idea that older women should remain in the shadows", he comments. "I think representation from all types of people is important." Especially because, in the end, growing old happens to a lot of us. Sour-Puss: The Opera narrates a "universal" drama, says Diogo, who lives in the United Kingdom since 2007. "We all fight internal battles against the pressures of society, caught between trying to be true to ourselves and trying to please other people."
Nowadays Diogo works as a freelance photographer and also teaches at the London School of Photography. Only recently has he given up his job in the suicide prevention field when he worked for Samaritans managing national projects. Perhaps because they both share a background in the mental health field, Jessica and Diogo experience the world in a similar way, a somewhat "dramatic"way. It's for this reason that there's as much tragedy as there is humour in the series they developed together. The choice of title reflects that acquaintance with both worlds. "Sour-Puss: The Opera is a humorous choice of title", he says. But Diogo makes it very clear: Jessica "is anything but a sour-puss. She is an inspiring woman who is not afraid or ashamed of her body." It's a quality he admires.