Photographer Sally Peterson has been traveling the United States for the past few years shooting portraits of people who are 100 years old and over for her ongoing photo project, "One Hundred." Petersen's work is fascinating in its depictions of elderliness -- being 100 or over doesn't mean you can't still do woodworking, smoke or hangout by the pool -- and, below, we chat with her a little about the series.
How did this project come about?
Through my grandmother Cecile. She lived to 101; she was my support growing up. I asked one of the nurses at her facility if there were any other 100 year olds there, and if I could meet them. They introduced me to Mary. She was so excited to have a visitor, her eyes lit up and the stories just came pouring out. I realized then that this was a project I had to do.
How do you find people over 100? Craigslist?
In the beginning, I researched online and visited various facilities much like the one my grandmother had lived in. It was very challenging at first. If I was lucky, I would find one centenarian per month who was willing to work with me. Slowly over time, word of mouth spread and I began to build trust. Then, after a very fortunate interview with Slate, people began contacting me about centenarians close to them.
Is there something that you’ve found all these people have in common?
It’s interesting, I kept thinking I would learn some secret to longevity, about why some people live for a long time and others don’t. But all of the Centenarians lived their lives so differently: some have great genes, while others are clearly an anomaly in their family; some smoke and drink daily, others are extremely health-conscious; some pray and have a great deal of faith, others are pretty cynical. There were no consistent practices or habits I noticed across the board that accounted for their collective longevity. Although one thing I noticed was that many are still deeply engaged in their communities; they participate in something that is important to them. It confirmed for me that there's no one way to live, to just keep living in the way that feels right for me, and to keep participating in things that feel important to me, things like this very project.