I photographed Tara Shannon a few weeks ago. A couple of weeks after that, she posted one of my images of her on her Facebook page. It was one of my favorites. In it, Tara stands on a little yellow table, wearing a Wonder Woman training bra over a bathing suit she bought at Target, looking off to the side—fierce, confident, strong.
Her own tagline went up on the photo : “My age is my superpower” and her age, 61. Facebook went wild, her feed lit up.
“I do value my age, my youth was just the vehicle that brought me to here. I don’t want to be younger. I’ve come to see aging as a spiritual ATM where I can cash out all the experiences I’ve had,” she told me later. “It dispenses a multitude of riches, like the mastery of my talents and intuitive insights.
It’s not that she hasn’t had experience with this kind of attention. Born in Denver, Colorado, Shannon hustled hard as a young model—aspiring to absorb every facet of the business and to express herself as an artist in a way that inspired art directors and photographers. She knew she was an atypical beauty and that actually helped her articulate what she had in a way that translated cinematically on film. She learned how to bring the viewer into her experience.
It’s why she been loved by the greats: Helmut Newton shot unforgettable images of her on the beaches of Cannes for French Vogue. She worked with New Yorker legend Richard Avedon and was a favorite of the inimitable Irving Penn.
What has she learned coming back to the fashion world in her 60’s? “In the modeling and film world, there is an old adage that you’re only as good as your last project.
What has she learned coming back to the fashion world in her 60’s? “In the modeling and film world, there is an old adage that you’re only as good as your last project. During our shoot, I realized how that point of view had kept me from valuing my experience and discounting it’s importance.” she says. “It was very empowering to own it. It shifted the focus from the external to the internal value again. It’s exactly what I did at the start of my career. I came home, again.”
I’ve talked to many women in the course of doing our AGEIST interviews who feel as if they turn invisible after a certain age. How does Shannon see that as an avoidable trap? “There are actually two questions behind the invisible issue: “Do I matter, and to whom?”
I value my point of view, above all others and that makes it a non- issue,” she says. “I know my worth when I step into any situation. When I’m in the presence of someone who doesn’t value me, it has nothing to do with me. I know who to go to who has the skill of valuing. If someone doesn't “see” me, I accept it, don’t assume they should, and go to someone who can.”