Boulder-based photographer Heidi Wagner, said that during the pandemic, she’s heard people dismiss the importance of older adults are to our society.
“I want people to see and understand how important older adults are to the richness of our culture. We are all so divided, and we love to put each other in boxes and keep ourselves separate from people who are different,” said Wanger.
Rather than dismissing what seniors’ add to society, Wagner wants people to see seniors for more than just being old. And she is working to show seniors in a different light through the Passions Project — a photo series where Wagner captures seniors doing what they are passionate about. Wagner has taken portrait photos of seniors who like to paint, play basketball, play instruments, sing and more, and her and her camera are coming to Lakewood.
Co-sponsored by the Alameda Corridor Business Improvement District, which promotes businesses along the Alameda Corridor, and the Village at Belmar senior living facility, Wagner will take portrait shots of up to 20 seniors throughout Lakewood. Those photos will then be displayed in the Denver metro area, including at the Lakewood Cultural Center at 470 S. Allison Parkway.
“I always say that I don’t work with old people. I work with cool people and get to hear cool stories,” said Wagner. “Anytime you can hear someone’s story, it deepens your understanding of who people are. I think it makes lives richer. I get to do that all the time.”
Wagner has carried out 15 different Passions Project series in 10 states like Montana, California, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Colorado where one of her series was displayed at the Frasier Meadows retirement facility in Boulder – the place where Village at Belmar cofounder Phil Shapiro first learned of her work.
Shapiro said Wagner’s worked resonated with him and knew he wanted to have her come take photos of Lakewood’s senior residents.
“Age prejudice has always been the focal point of anyone in the aging or senior living field. This is an opportunity to give something positive to the market, teach about elderly people and their lives and to teach who they are and what they came from,” said Shapiro.
The Alameda area has seen new artwork sprout up throughout the year like hand sanitizer stations decorated by local artists and traffic electrical boxes wrapped in vinyl that display nature themes. Tom Quinn, executive director of Alameda Connects, a nonprofit that promotes the Alameda Corridor, said the Alameda Corridor Business Improvement District sees art like Wagner’s portraits as having major economic benefits for a community like Lakewood.
“The Alameda Corridor Business Improvement District saw an opportunity with the Passions Project to partner with the Village at Belmar to promote awareness and educate our community on ageism,” said Quinn.
“We look forward to sharing these wonderful portraits of Lakewood residents actively living their passions,” he added.
Before Wagner takes the portrait photos, a selection committee made up of local business and aging service leaders will select up to 20 residents to participate in the project. You can nominate a senior at alamedaconnects.org/about-the-bid/the-passions-project/. The selection committee will choose which residents get to be photographed in the coming weeks.
“There are incredible lives, and people are doing such cool things. I think that’s lost on so many people when you are getting older,” said Wagner. “I think people dismiss and minimize people of having value and as we age, we have value. I want people to see the value of all.”