Centenarians: Touching Portraits of People Over One Hundred Years Old

twin centenarians
Venice and Inez, 101 years, Los Angeles, California

A century old person, or person of 100 years of age is commonly called a centenarian. That would peg someone to have been born in 1913, or just shortly after the turn of the last century. To put things in perspective, it was the year Woodrow Wilson became President, the year Henry Ford developed the first moving assembly line, and also the year Albert Einstein would work on a new Theory of Gravity. 1913 was also the year Richard Nixon and Rosa Parks were born, and future president Franklin D. Roosevelt was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In sports, the Philadelphia Athletics beat the New York Giants four games to one. A hundred years is a long time to be alive and yet there are even supercentenarians, or persons who have lived 110 years and more.

Sally Peterson is one to be in awe of these durable, enduring people. Her adoration for centenarians began when she took a portrait of her then 101-year-old grandmother, Cecil Peterson.

lady from california centenarian
Inez Harris, 101 years, Los Angeles, CA.

That switched on a light bulb in Sally’s head, wanting to follow-through on that pictorial. What started as one session mushroomed into a full blown project, as Sally sought to photograph every centenarian she could get a hold of.

lady from st louis centenarian
Elise, 100 years, St. Louis, MO.

The United Nations pegs a figure of 316,600 living centenarians all over the world. The U.S. currently holds the record for the most centenarians with 53,364 according to a Census from 2010, while Japan comes in second with an estimated 51,376 as of September 2012. Centenarians are truly to be marveled at, having witnessed the incredible events that span an entire century.

german centenarian
Charlotte, 102 years, Munich, Germany

A nearby nursing home helped Sally come up with a considerable number of these century old folks. To date, Sally has assembled a respectable number of photographs depicting these resilient and wise people. Many reside in California, being the most populous state with  people age 100 or older – 5,921.

man from california centenarian
George, 112 years, Sacramento, CA.

“Centenarians love to tell their stories. They are grateful for the life they’ve lived. They lit up when I talked to them, which brought me further and further into the project. Walking into someone’s home or environment, I see a different reality every time,” Sally told Feature Shoot, expressing her delight with the senior citizens. Sally just goes with the flow during these pictorials, trying her best to have the subjects be at ease in front of the camera with minimal direction.

centenarian from la, california
Gertrude, 114 years, Los Angeles, CA.

See her Centenarians series over on her website, and imagine how you would look if you were also blessed with the gift of time.

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.