What is community art all about? Three local people share their stories…

Angie Lapham was one of 14 local people who chose to take part in our recent Glowing Older exhibition with St Ann’s fine art photographer Grace Eden. “I heard about the project through my housemate Elaine and thought it would be a really good experience. Grace came round to our house to create our portraits and we had a laugh. I’ve never objected to having my photo taken and I enjoyed the whole process, it was good fun. It was nice being told what to do…stand like that…look up there….it was like being on stage or modelling.

“I’m not into art but to actually take part and do it is right up my street”

“When I first saw the Glowing Older portraits at the Broadway Gallery I thought they were brilliant, I looked at my portrait and thought ‘wow, is that me?’ I was surprised by how many people turned up and the way they were really interested in the portraits and things like light and angles. I’m not an arty person in that way, I just look at a picture and think whether it’s nice or not. My friends’ reaction was ‘wow, you go girl’ – they think the portrait is really good. I thought my kids would be embarrassed at me showing a bit of flesh ‘at my age’ but they didn’t mention it – they know if I want to do something I do it!

Angie’s portrait is inspired by 18th century Pre-Raphaelite paintings by artists like Rosetti

“If anyone gets the chance to take part in a project like this, I’d definitely recommend it. Even if you’re shy, just go for it, when you’re in front of the camera you feel like a different person, especially when you’re wearing a wig and a costume like I was. I wore a blue silk kimono my father brought back from Japan after the war for my mother. It was nice to be able to commemorate my mum and dad and I’m very proud of my portrait. I’m really pleased I did it.”

Angie’s housemate Elaine Godley took part in Glowing Older too – after hearing a call out for people to take part on BBC Radio Nottingham. “I thought ‘why not?’ It’s fun dressing up and isn’t something you’d normally do, not in those kind of clothes in such an elegant, respectful, tasteful way. Grace did the shoot in my house and garden and Mark Dennison from BBC Radio Nottingham came along too. It was a bit weird, but it made me feel really nice. Grace knew what she was doing and it was an honour and privilege to be part of her process.

Elaine was photographed in the style of a 16th century Vermeer painting with a number of props that were special to her, including her grandfather’s christening shawl, her grandmother’s wedding ring and a silk scarf from the Spanish Civil War, given to her grandmother by a soldier as a thank you for giving him food and shelter

“It’s absolutely amazing to see yourself as a work of art. Grace had captured the Vermeer style exactly and most people didn’t recognise me when they saw my portrait at Broadway Gallery. The surprise on people’s faces was wonderful and even I thought ‘is that really me?’ My friends’ reaction was ‘wow, what fun’ and the portrait definitely shows my light side, the side that’s happy to go along with anything. They didn’t say much but I think my family were quietly proud, even if they thought ‘what’s she up to now?!’

“It’s great to feel part of a tribe, one of Grace’s Glowing Olders, walking art”

“It was nice to meet the other models too, at the Broadway Gallery exhibition and then at St Peter’s Church when the portraits went on display there. We all had the same kind of twinkle in our eyes as if to say ‘see, we’re not old and decrepit’. Community art projects are another way of giving people a sense of belonging. The portraits are all stunning and a lovely description of people over 60 – the new 40. I feel like a 25 year old and taking part in things like this helps people to stay young, meet other people and show that life can be fun and full of possibilities. It was an amazing experience, 20 out of 10, and I’d definitely recommend it. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever.”

Stephen Jon heard about Glowing Older via a call out on Facebook. “Having recently retired, I’m curious as to how the world perceives older folks and also, how we perceive ourselves. Being older isn’t a state of being but a continuation of the process of living. The project also chimed with my own interest in the history of art and drawing parallels between contemporary culture and historical times, be that real or fantastical.

Stephen Jon and Richard Frost

“The photoshoot with Grace was fun. There were three of us, Grace, myself and Richard, my partner. The dressing up gave us the opportunity to expand and be more than our usual selves. We had a good rapport with Grace and it felt like a collaborative process. It was rather nice to be a subject and participant in a project as so often in my professional life as a community artist I’ve been the facilitator. It was a great pleasure to be on the other side.

“I felt it was important to show images of gay/queer people who are not in the prime of life”

“We now have a gorgeous photograph of us, envisioned through the lens of historical artifice. Grace captured something of our relationship that I have never seen in a photograph before. No actual change other than an affirmation of what is.

“Community art projects like this broaden what the term ‘community’ can mean, they question and challenge. I’ve already recommended getting involved with Place to other people.”

About Glowing Older

Glowing Older gave older people aged 60+ in Nottingham the opportunity to have their portrait taken in the style of old master paintings. The project was organised by Place, our community-led arts and culture programme, in collaboration with Grace Eden – a fine art photographer based in St Ann’s. Glowing Older was Grace’s first solo exhibition and the portraits were exhibited at Broadway Gallery and St Peter’s Church. Place is funded by Arts Council England and Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

All the portraits can be seen on the Nottingham Post website