“Those wrinkles weren’t there before,” the elderly woman remarks, gesturing at one of the photos of herself. “My eyes are getting covered up by the sagging skin.”
Shot by Lean Lui, the aforementioned photo is from The Time Goes By, a series inspired by and dedicated to the photographer’s septuagenarian grandmother.
Lui recalls the incident that sparked the idea for the series. “There was one time when I did her makeup, dressed her up, and took some photos of her. Everyone who saw the photos said she looked beautiful. I thought she’d be so happy, but it made her sad. She felt like all of her friends had aged gracefully. But when she looked at herself, she felt like she hadn’t. She felt her appearances now were worlds away from the beauty of her younger days.”
这系列照片是 Lean Lui 送给她婆婆的专题辑《The Time Goes By》，照片的灵感也是来自于年逾古稀的婆婆。
As the Chinese saying goes, time wears away youth.
Lui considers herself as someone who’s always able to say the right things, and in this instance, she wanted to tell her grandma that she’s just as beautiful as ever. But seeing as how her grandma wasn’t comparing herself to anyone else but her past self, Lui struggled to find the right words.
“If it’s something you treasured and you lost it, the people who never had it won’t be able to empathize with the pain of losing it,” Lui says. “I could sympathize with her frustrations of aging, but I also understand that the past is the past. If your eyes droop, then it droops. If your skin is loose, then it’s loose. Aging is an inevitable part of life, but I also understand how scary it can be for many, especially women.”
面对这个问题，平时能言善辩的 Lean 语塞了。Lean 没有办法说出像“别这样说啦！你现在也很漂亮啊！”这样安慰人的话，因为婆婆比较的对象不是他人，正是年轻时候的自己。
“You really won’t be beautiful if you don’t appreciate the beauty you have now,” Lui told her.
“I’m already old and wrinkly, what beauty is there to speak of?” Lui’s grandmother sulked.
“现在又老又皱皮的，还有什么美可言？”婆婆说，但 Lean 知道这只是婆婆的赌气话而已。
But how exactly is beauty defined? When you’re young, you may have pretty eyes, a gorgeous face, and a perfect body, but is that all beauty is?
Lui decided to share the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi with her grandmother. This philosophy embraces aging and the imperfections that come with it, believing that the true essence of beauty lies in authenticity. “If you want to look like your younger self again, that’s impossible,” Lui told her. “But what you have now is wisdom and life experience, and I believe that the unconditional love you have for our family now is the most beautiful thing about you.”
In truth, beauty and age shouldn’t be seen as relative with one another. While superficial traits are universally used to gauge beauty, the intangible factors that make a person “beautiful” are often discounted. Is the wisdom and experience that come with age not more meaningful than external beauty? This quote perhaps sums it up best:
“One day, I was already old, in the entrance of a public place a man came up to me. He introduced himself and said: ‘I’ve known you for years. Everyone says you were beautiful when you were young, but I want to tell you I think you’re more beautiful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravaged.’”
–– An excerpt from Marguerite Duras’s The Lover
Lean Lui is currently hosting a solo exhibition in Hong Kong of a photo series based on the relationship between humans and nature. See below for details.
Event: Flow by Nature
Date: March 27, 2018 ~ May 12, 2018
Opening Hours: Tuesday ~ Saturday 11:00 am ~ 7:00 pm (closed on public holidays)
5th floor, Amber Commercial Building
70-74 Morrison Hill Road
Contributor: Chen Yuan