From a blog to a printed tome, photographer Ari Seth Cohen spends his days shooting the “advanced set” – those individuals over 60 years old who are fearless with their fashion choices. His blog Advanced Style was recently turned into a book, documenting his years shooting those New Yorkers (and beyond) who have earned their sartorial stripes. Fresh on the heels of his book’s debut, ASC explains why having your grandmother as your best friend can help narrow down your career path.
Life+Times: Tell me a little bit about why and when you launched your blog Advanced Style?
Ari Seth Cohen: I launched Advanced Style in August 2008 to bring attention to an oft-overlooked segment of the population. I wanted to show a positive and inspiring image of aging and show that style, creativity, and spirit advance with age.
L+T: Were there any women growing up whose style you admired? If so – who were they? And what influence did they have on you? I know your grandmother had a profound influence on you.
ASC: My grandfather and grandmother were both extremely elegant and they taught me that I should try and look my best no matter what. I used to watch old movies with my grandma and was always inspired by how elegant and glamorous everyone looked, from Cary Grant to Marlene Dietrich.
L+T: The mantra of your blog is devoted to ‘capturing the sartorial savvy of the senior set’. What’s your shooting process like? What captures your eye?
ASC: I am inspired by both the style and spirit of the senior set. I walk around with my camera looking for people with great personal style and presence. My eye is drawn to extremes whether it be extreme elegance or eccentricity, its all about personality and vitality.
L+T: When and how did you create the book? What was the creative process like?
ASC: It is a product of over three years worth of photos and style tips from women aged 60 to 100 years old. It was amazing to look back at all the photos I have taken over the years. It has been a privilege to spend so much time speaking with such inspiring people.
L+T: What have you learned about yourself and your overall aesthetic as a photographer while putting together your book?
ASC: I hope to be as energetic and vital as the people featured in my book. I was always afraid to do something creative, but doing this book and starting my blog has shown me that I can make a career out of doing what I love.
L+T: Dita Von Teese, a world-renowned burlesque dancer, conducts the interview in the book. How did she get involved? Why did this make sense?
ASC: Dita had been a fan of Advanced Style and was particularly inspired by a 92-year -old artist and performer Ilona Royce Smithkin. A while back I brought Ilona to one of Dita’s events in New York and they immediately hit it off. One of my goals in starting Advanced Style was to connect old and young and create an inter-generational conversation about life, style, and aging. Dita has a wonderful appreciation for glamour, elegance and older women. I was honored to have her as a part of this project.
L+T: What’s the next phase of your Advanced Style entity? What are you currently working on?
ASC: Two of the ladies were featured in the most recent Lanvin campaign. One of the ladies, 82-year-old Jacquie Tajah Murdock, grew up in Harlem and always dreamed of becoming a model. This is such an incredible opportunity for her. I am currently working with filmmaker Lina Plioplyte to finish a full-length documentary about the Advanced Style ladies that we have been working on for over three years. This summer we are finishing up production and getting the film ready for the festival circuit. You can watch the trailer here I am also working on some cool brand partnerships and the proposal for my next book.
L+T: Working with the subject of the “60 plus set” is in some ways an interesting choice. How has the response of viewers/visitors/family changed from the blogs initial inception until now?
ASC: I grew up being best friends with my grandmother, so the people who have known me for a long time understood why I would be working with older people from the very beginning. Over the last four years I have received over seven million page views on Advanced Style and I have received feedback from men and women from all over the world. Young women email me to say that they are no longer afraid to get older and older women tell me that they no longer feel invisible. I am so happy to see these wonderful, creative and inspiring people get the recognition that they deserve.
CREDITS: Photos from Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen, published by powerHouse Books.