Reactor

Seeing the Elderly Through Children’s Eyes

by An Xiao on January 24, 2014

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Yoni Lefévre reimagines children’s drawings of their grandparents through photographs. (images via Designboom unless otherwise noted)

Something the internet has done so well is reveal the creativity that many of us keep tucked away. It’s a creativity we see in children’s drawings and imaginations, before standardizing testing and other forms of schooling draw the emphasis to analytic thinking or rote memorization.

What might children’s drawings look like in an internet age? Photographer Yoni Lefévre’s Grey Power series reimagines children’s drawings as photos — which have since gone viral. Lefévre’s images combine the fanciful with the real, showing grandparents with multiple arms or dressed like a lady bug. These images capture the liveliness of imagination, with photos that remind many of us of our first dabblings with art and creative expression.

One of Yoni Lefévre works with the child's drawing on the left and the recreation on the right. (via yonilefevre.com)

One of Yoni Lefévre works with the child’s drawing on the left and the recreation on the right. (via yonilefevre.com)

The focus on the elderly is not a first for Lefévre, whose The Most Valuable Remains series explored the remaining possessions of the aging. But what makes this new series more successful in my mind is how it challenges how we think about old age. Anyone who’s grown up with loving grandparents knows that it’s a special relationship that’s very different from that between children and their parents. A recent study has shown that strong ties between these two generations leads to better mental health for all, as Live Science noted:

“Extended family members, such as grandparents and grandchildren, serve important functions in one another’s daily lives throughout adulthood,” said study researcher Sara Moorman, professor of sociology at Boston College.

The findings also showed it is important for grandchildren to help their grandparents remain independent, and maintain a two-way, supportive relationship, in order to ward off the detrimental effects of aging on the mental and emotional well-being of the older adults.

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A grandparent configured the way their grandchild “wanted.”

The images here are not just grandparents, but grandparents as vibrant heroes, and that’s part of what makes them special and resonant. As Lefévre notes in the artist statement for the work, “Children do not regard their grandparents as grey and withered, but as active human beings who add color to their lives. Their fresh perspective can contribute towards a more nuanced and positive view on the composition of our society.”

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