When trying to come up with a project that would showcase the vibrancy of senior citizens, Dutch visual communication designer Yoni Lefevre turned to a group that usually sees older people as superheroes — children.
“The main goal was to give a positive image of this aging society,’’ Lefevre told TODAY.com, of the project she titled "Grey Power."
The artist, based in Eindhoven, Netherlands, reached out to local schoolchildren to draw pictures of their grandparents, and then scanned the drawings and made them into life-sized photos. She then showed them to elderly people in her local area and had them pose to match the photos while wearing costumes and props she designed based on the drawings.
Photographer Nick Bookelaar photographed the senior citizens wearing the colorful outfits and posing with real cutouts from the life-sized photos Lefevre created, blending the drawings with reality. The resulting effect makes them look like superheroes full of life.
“In the Netherlands, there’s a lot of negativity about aging," Lefevre said, of what inspired her to create the pictures. "I read in the newspaper that 90 percent of the time the elderly are shown in the media, they’re shown as pathetic and lonely. But when you talk to the people, they don't fit that image anymore. They see themselves as people who are active and independent.
“Children have a very honest and pure view of their grandparents, and that’s what I wanted to communicate, so I came up with the idea of contacting them in local classes. They made a lot of colorful and funny images.”
To get her models on board, Lefevre interviewed local senior citizens to see if they would be interested in the project, and showed them the children's drawings.
“Interviewing one of the men, he was saying sometimes there was a whole week where he didn't hear a human voice,’’ she said. “He was really lonely. When I showed him, ‘This is how a child sees you,’ he was really proud and happy.”
She created the outfits worn by the subjects with friends Truce Gelissen and Juno Lefevre, using different colorful fabrics.
“I made the suits inspired by the children's drawings, but also to communicate this superhero view of the elderly by the children,’’ she said.
Lefevre then took the photographs back to the children to show them what their artwork had become.
“The kids were like, 'Wow, this grandma is really cool!’’’ she said.