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Victoria Sheridan - Picture Story Gallery<br>The Face of Labor: Portraits of Working People
The genesis of this project came from a time-clouded memory of my grandfather being told by an architectural firm that it was time to retire.  Unhappy with his forced retirement, my grandfather promptly found a new job in a department store's book section, a position hardly deserving of a lifetime of architectural expertise, but he always explained it away by saying that he loved books, and he continued working well into his nineties.  This childhood anecdote inspired me to seek people who have continued working, whether by choice or necessity, beyond what our society deems traditional retirement age.  I have attempted to discover what causes individuals to keep working, if they have regrets about their choices, and how they arrived at their decisions.<br>We have laws now that protect people from being forced into retirement based on age, but anyone who proudly sports their gray hair understands the prejudice that age receives in the job market.  Although the qualifying age for partial Social Security benefits is sixty-two, and full benefits at sixty-five, I feel that sixty is a turning-point for people contemplating retirement, and it is when employers and family begin hinting that retirement may be appropriate.  Therefore, I chose the age of sixty as my criterion in seeking persons to include in the project.<br>Everyone photographed for this project was located through my network of friends, family and former newspaper colleagues.  In the summer of 1998 I put this network into overdrive and unmercifully pestered everyone I know to think of someone for me to photograph and interview.  I talked about my project with anyone I came into contact with, left cards and notices on bulletin boards, and approached strangers on a regular basis.  I do not take rejection easily -- I do not know anyone who does -- and this project has been a personal lesson in rejection and perseverance because every photograph in this exhibition represents at least three rejections.  Those rejections however, made the people who agreed to participate that much more precious and enjoyable.  I was surprised at how few working women I was able to locate, and I was astonished at the amount of people who refused to participate.  Those rejections may reflect society's current perception of photographers.<br>This project is not meant to be a definitive expression of people working past retirement age.  It is a small sampling, a few meant to represent many.  I continue to see our gray-haired sages everywhere, now that the project is completed, and still wonder why they are working and what path brought them there.  My project closed the door to some of my questions and simultaneously opened a wealth of possibilities to consider.  In many ways I could possibly spend a lifetime pursuing an elusive childhood memory.

 

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