The mid-point in life can mark a dislocation for women, a break in their story that often comes with little spiritual or psychological preparation. Women shift gear – no longer nubile, no longer fertile, no longer 'young' but not having yet earned the 'venerable old woman' title. As girls we 'become' women when biology asserts itself; when it does so again in mid-life, do we un-become? What is the mythic story we can turn to? Where are the songlines for us to follow? Too often, we fade in perceived relevance, we become invisible, we disappear even to ourselves.
UNBECOMING is a photographic essay that features 50 women captured at this point in their lives. Cindy's process involves a very in-depth engagement with the subjects of her photographs: these portraits are not merely likenesses, the seizing of light on a surface, but rather issue from the inside out. Cindy spends hours listening to the stories of her subjects, to how they chart their inner worlds, where they find themselves now, what longings, what joys, what sorrows they hold – and crucially for the project, what element of their many selves they wish to highlight for themselves going forward into the next phase of their life.
Each of us has that native, embodied wisdom – a wild, untamed, undomesticated body-mind and heart that know what is true for us. This looks and feels different for each woman, and no two are ever alike.
— Michaela Bœm, The Wild Woman's Way
Working with the idea of Jungian archetypes as a way of accessing -- of remembering -- who we are, Cindy explores the wildness women all hold within. These portraits are about re-telling, retelling the stories that are told about us by society, about subverting ideas and ideals of beauty as a surface quality, about acknowledging that every story is different and that there is a wildness within us all that begs to be expressed.
The project explores the way in which women can reconnect to true self, shrived of the demands of society to Be a certain way, to embody a certain ideal: wife, mother, sex object, domestic worker. Cindy's work of deep listening and delving into wildernesses alongside her subjects results in a remarkable discovery or re-discovery for the subjects of parts that had lain lost, discarded or unknown. There is an element of re-birth here, for this second half of life that is being celebrated through these 50 women at mid-life.
The Huntress, The Purist, The Wanderer – we women hold multitudes and the archetypal power invoked reminds us all that we grow closer to our true selves as we move forward in years, we adventure towards more that is True about ourselves and what we value. There is, in these photographs, a celebration of womanhood – of identity, pride, self-love and self-acceptance that comes from a place rooted in deep mythological time and cosmic continuity.
Unbecoming shifts our notions of what it means for women at midlife. The reassigning of value, back to the second half of life, is a revolutionary act in a society where youth is the ultimate currency. This is a subversive attribution, a stand taken against the tide. The 50 portraits inspire awe and even recognition in their quiet stance; their power is evident and the women in the room will not be denied.
The portraits themselves are stunning and powerful, the scale and presence will take your breath away. Find out more about taking part in 50@50 here.