500 STRONG – Ponch Hawkes
The world is awash with images of naked youthfulness, mainly young women. A naked older woman is an extremely rare subject and hardly ever portrayed with any sense of desirability.
In 2018 renowned photographer Ponch Hawkes embarked on a project to photograph 500 Victorian women. Challenging the notions of what real women look like, 500 Strong celebrates older women’s health, body image and wellbeing.
Calling on women from across the State over the age of 50 from all backgrounds, including numerous women from Horsham, volunteered to be photographed in the nude to celebrate the diversity and reality of older women’s bodies. Photoshoots were organised in Melbourne, Shepparton, Geelong and in April this year at Horsham Regional Art Gallery. Participants were encouraged to consider their anonymity and, if they wished, come prepared with a personalised face covering. Some women chose to show their faces.
This epic body of work by Ponch Hawkes and curated by Jane Scott is both irreverent and playful. 500 Strong was an engaging and empowering outreach project that premiered in the 2021 exhibition Flesh After Fifty: Changing Images of Older Women in Art.
Image: Ponch Hawkes, 500 Strong Project 2019-2020. Courtesy of the artist.