After I saw Bob Buchanan‘s photos of mature women in a Huffington Post piece, I reached out to him and asked him if I could feature him on my blog. I love the fact that he photographs women in their natural, un-retouched splendor. A retired police officer, Bob is now a full-time photographer who has recently published a collection of his work, Real Women, 40 And Beyond.
Tell me how you got the idea to shoot mature women as they are, not retouched.
It was when I saw a piece on Pretty Woman. They spoke about how they used a leg double for the nude scene where Julia Roberts was lying across the tub. My head exploded. I was thinking: were her legs so bad they couldn’t use them? I realized that Hollywood and the advertising industry hurts everyone, not just women, but also men who see nothing but perfection and expect only that from the women they date and marry.
In the real world there is no such thing as perfection, so we should stop looking for it and stop putting it out there when it doesn’t exist. Real is beautiful.
Your subjects appear very comfortable with you. How do you create an environment where women allow themselves to be experienced this intimately?
I met with them at least once before, for lunch, coffee, whatever. I let them know I was interested in them, not their body. I got to know them as a person, not an object. I believe they sensed that and could trust me.
Did you have any formal training as a photographer?
I started shooting photojournalism part-time when I was a cop. Public relations people saw my shots and hired me, then a printer hired me to shoot Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates. The next thing I knew I was in business.
I went to a Nikon seminar and a class done by Yale Joel, a Time-Life photographer. He said I was good and knew as much as anyone, including him. I would study photos in magazines, ads mostly, and look at the lighting. Then a local magazine did an article on Lee Bolton, who was shooting the Rockefeller art collection. The photo showed his studio set-up and lights. I went out and bought a spotlight, and everything changed, it became instinctive. The first shot I did using my spotlight was a banana.
It sold at an auction to Young and Rubicam, it sold for the most money of anything there. It got more than Andy Warhol’s photos. Most of the bidders were women.
Off the top of your head, give me five words that describe older women.
Beauty, centered, self-assured, sensual, warm.
Do you think society’s beliefs about older women — that they’re no longer vital, sexual beings — is changing, and if so, what evidence do you see to support this?
I do, although it’s slow. You have younger men interested in older women. One of my models in the book was telling me she was food-shopping when she saw an older woman in the store. Instead of looking at her as old she saw her beauty. That was the purpose of this book.
Hollywood hasn’t changed enough but it has changed a bit. I was hoping this book would have hit it big enough to get some attention, but it didn’t. Photo books don’t get promoted unless you have a name and I’m a “nobody.” I haven’t given up yet. Who knows, maybe I’ll get known somehow.
You’re also a psychic medium. Do your supernatural abilities inform your work as photographer and if so, how?
I’m what is known as a caulbearer, same as a medium. I don’t believe in psychics as most are fakes. I feel things, I feel emotions when I shoot, a closeness, and it’s like I’m being told my model’s moods and thoughts and I react to them. It’s like when doing a shot, the emotional me feels it; my emotions go from my fingers to the shutter and travel onto the film. I am told how to shoot things and what to shoot. Although I’m visual, my emotional being creates the photo. It sounds crazy, I know.
Follow Bob Buchanan on his Facebook page.