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Changing the narrative of ageing through photography

A South Australian photography competition aiming to change the perception of ageing by showing positive and realistic photos of older Australians was launched on 1 November.

The Wellness Gallery project wants to shift the negative view of older people in media to a more positive and realistic view through photos. [Source: Shutterstock]

The "Ageing Well" Photography Competition through the Wellness Gallery, a Catalyst Foundation project, is running from 1 November 2021 to 31 January 2022 and is supported by funding from the Office for Ageing Well through the Positive Ageing Fellowship Grant.

Veronica Davila, Wellness Gallery Project Officer, says the competition aims to challenge the concept of ageism in the media, which can be stereotypical and/or portray older people in a negative way.

The project is designed to engage the wider community in shifting that narrative about ageing in media to one that celebrates the diversity, contributions and authenticity of older Australians. 

"We are trying to open people's eyes to the fact that there is ageism in the media and we need to start noticing those things so we can fix it," explains Ms Davila.

"[Ageism in media] can make [older people] feel like that is how people view them. It would potentially internalise those feelings. Say you are an older person and see these photos of [older people] in ill health, a 'victim', a 'burden in society' - you might start to internalise those things and think 'yeah, we are a burden on society', which is absolutely not the case.

"There are so many older people that have such brilliant contributions to society and they continue to bring those contributions all the way through their life. Seeing negative stereotypes would definitely be disheartening for older people."

A panel of industry judges and public votes will determine the best images in the competition, which will form a resource gallery of inclusive, age-positive images. The top three best photos, as per the public vote, will receive gift card prizes up to $300.

The Wellness Gallery project has found that people and organisations want to use realistic and diverse photos in media, but trying to source them is a challenge. Ms Davila says they want to give these groups access to photos that better represent older people.

After the competition, the image gallery will be accessible to individuals and organisations to use the photos as 'stock' images for their marketing and communications.

Ms Davila says this will allow individuals and organisations to be able to use non-stereotypical images of older people as an alternative to the current stereotypical images often used in media.

"At the moment, what you find in media is the images are really negative. They focus on the 'disability' of the aged population, it shows them as 'feeble', 'weak', 'needing care', 'waiting to die', that sort of thing," says Ms Davila.

"And realistically, there are so many diverse narratives of older people. There are so many older people that are showing positive ageing and have such amazing attitudes to ageing and they’re healthy and active, they are leading brilliant lives at no matter what age."

Anyone in South Australia can participate in the competition, including professional photographers, amateurs, or enthusiasts.

The Wellness Gallery is welcoming of diverse photos of all groups of ageing South Australians, including those living with disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, LGBTQIA+ communities, Aboriginal Communities, and people living in regional and rural areas.

Project officers from the Wellness Gallery will be working with independent professional photographers and community groups to develop a portfolio of images, in addition to the competition entries, to add to the image gallery.

The Wellness Gallery hopes the competition will inspire the community to contribute to a society that embraces older Australians and moves beyond ageism. 

To learn more about the competition or to participate, head to the Wellness Gallery website. Professional photographers and community group organisers in South Australia can also volunteer for a structured photoshoot by emailing the Wellness Gallery,


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