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Olympus Celebrates 100 Year Anniversary With Centenarians Exhibition

Olympus is 100-years-old and to celebrate, they've been hosting an exhibition featuring portraits of people who have reached the grand age of 100.

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Celebrating Centenarians


How long do you think you’re going to live? How long do you want to live? Seventy-five, eighty, ninety, a hundred? I just tried an online life expectancy calculator (have a go), it predicts I’ll pop my clogs at eighty-six. Not bad, but some way off the magic ton.

On Thursday I met two lovely ladies, Innis and Winifred, who have both made this remarkable milestone. They were at the After Nyne Gallery in Holland Park as guests of Olympus. Olympus is celebrating its 100-year anniversary from when the company was founded in 1918.

Georgina Pavelin, Olympus Marketing Manager, came up with the idea of celebrating their first ten decades with fellow centenarians. She commissioned a group of Olympus photographers to take portraits of people born in 1918/19 and the results have been collated into a book ‘Celebrating Centenarians’ as well as an Exhibition (open until 5 November 2019).


Celebrating Centenarians, After Nyne Gallery


The gallery is small and perfectly formed, ideal to display the sixty portraits of thirty lucky men and women who belong to the 100 club. As I walked in, there was a lady sitting by the entrance who looked old, but not that old. I wondered if she was a subject, but you never ask a lady her age, so I carried on past.

Chatting to Georgina, I asked her how she found her subjects? Did they ask the Queen? She must have a list! The Queen, incidentally, is a whippersnapper of only 93. I bet if she does that online calculator it’ll say well over a 100. Poor Charles. Apparently, with data protection rules the Queen can’t share her birthday list. So, they used facebook, google, posted adverts and contacted care homes to track down their subjects. I wouldn’t have been any help; I don’t know any Centenarians. Do You?

Portraiture is my thing, so I loved looking around the gallery. After studying a few portraits, it soon became apparent that I would have to re-evaluate what a 100-year-old looked like. They generally looked a lot younger than I had expected. Split evenly between men and women, some were taken in colour and some black and white. I preferred the colour shots, somehow black and white doesn’t suit Centenarians, it makes them look old!


Celebrating Centenarians, After Nyne Gallery


My favourite portrait was of Dennis Brock in the bell tower, bell ringing! The bell ropes adding a nice dash of colour. Dennis looked like an approachable chap you’d like a chat with. Another shot I liked was of John Hamilton proudly sitting in his Gym! He took it up 14 years ago which sounds a long time, he was 86! (the age I’m going to fall off my perch apparently). I was glad to read he likes a glass of wine. Jane Spencer CBE of radio 4's The Archers fame, and still working, doesn’t look a day over 75. It’s a lovely glamorous portrait using a shallow depth of field to good advantage.


Celebrating Centenarians, After Nyne Gallery


My favourite part of the evening was meeting two of the centenarians Innis and Winifred. Innis (named after a ship) was the lady I had walked past. A lovely elegant lady, she was quieter than Winfred and seemed a little bemused by all the attention. She was accompanied by her daughter a youngster at 66.

Winifred, an Essex girl, was loving the attention and very happy to chat. She told me she used to love ballroom dancing and now won’t miss Strictly. She used to do yoga, but now just does tai chi! She told a story of how she got married in the war and was walking home from the reception when there was an air raid. Her new groom panicked and pushed her to the floor, grazing her hands and knees. She winked and said he didn’t get any fun that night!


Innis and Winifred


Winifred’s portraits were taken by Jay Mclaughlin whom I spoke to about his experience. He’s normally a fashion photographer so taking pictures of centenarians is a little bit off-piste. However, he loved it! He said he spent hours with his four subjects and found it very rewarding. Sometimes the fashion world can seem a bit superficial in comparison. He recounted how these encounters had changed his outlook on life. Unfortunately, before I could find out how our chat was cut short as the birthday cake turned up!


Innis and Winifred


I also had a nice chat with another Olympus Photographer Marcus Clackson who took Innis’s charming portraits. Marcus had clearly enjoyed the commission, which I think showed in the exhibition, his photos being some of the best. He enjoyed the work so much he has decided to carry on the project. So, if you’re 100-years-old and want a free portrait taken by a top photographer, get in touch...

What an inspired idea Olympus has come up with to celebrate their 100-year anniversary. If you get a chance, go to Holland Park and have a look at the portraits. Unfortunately, you won’t meet any of the centenarians as was my privilege. I came away in agreement with Marcus and Jay, meeting the 100-year young ladies was inspiring. Thank you, Olympus for the opportunity.

Celebrating Centenarians is open to the public until 5 November 2019 at the After Nyne Gallery in London. 

Words and images by Martin Jordan. 

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