75-Year Itch

A study / playdate with Oakland's finest. The Downtown Oakland Senior Center is home to its renowned Ballroom Dance program, poetry classes, yoga, hatmaking, etc. It’s also the gathering spot for some incredibly spirited, sharp, physically fit, and hysterically fun people.  (Click images to enlarge.)

This is a personal project I shot with one goal in mind: to test my endurance. I had previously been there on assignment for Oakland Magazine years ago, so I knew what kind of energy I was getting into. But still, for hours I was delightfully entertained by a woman in her 70’s pretending she was James Brown, a lady who I’m convinced had a dozen batteries powering her turquoise track-suit, and dynamo couples, whose 50+ year love affairs fired lightning bolts across the room.

I’ll admit, some shoots require great effort, and a whole lot of hands-on direction (usually resulting in making an ass of myself). But sessions like this (I dare say) are easy. These people kept giving and participating. And what was pretty neat, too is that they were aware of their friends watching (and chuckling) from the sidelines. (They were next in line to be in front of my lens, and being chuckled at by the previous subjects.)  So there was this animated dynamic going on - almost a competition to see who could be more handsome, dance-y, authentically loose, energetic.  Yep, all this worked in my favor (selfishly speaking)!

Back-breaking physical labor.

It’s funny how easy it was to hang out with these guys for the day. Old people (or “older people” as some say) are more comfortable in their own skin than any other age group. They don’t look in the mirror constantly. They don’t tense up during an occasional bout of “awkward” silence. They’re less reserved and apt to ask bold questions like, “How much money do you make?”. They love music and dancing together (as opposed to dancing independently together – know what I mean?).

For those of you who are photographers, you’ll dig this: After each session with a couple or individual, I would shake their hands or give them a hug goodbye, and as I took a breather (walking toward my water bottle) I’d let out a powerful victorious (but whispered) “YES!!!!!!” I couldn’t wait to review these images! There was no time then, however, because Dapper Dan was ready to sing a song to me. . .

I’d love to do this again. Does anyone know of other senior centers with funky folk ready to shake it? Let me know. Seriously. 

Visit Mitch's official website at http://www.mitchtobias.com