This month, photographer Natalie Grono won Australia’s prestigious National Portrait Gallery People’s Choice award for her image, aptly titled, “Feather in the Goddess Pool.” Her subject, Feather, is a regular at Byron Bay’s beaches where she swims in what’s become known as the goddess pool, looking quite like the goddess that she is.
Grono was drawn to the fact that Feather, now in her mid-70s, is comfortable in her own skin and unwavering in her confidence, despite the fact women are pressured, by both the media and society, to be a certain age and body type when baring their skin at the beach. Grono’s image of Feather calls out this ideal and proves that beauty is reflected in all different types of individuals, no matter their age.
We talked to Grono about her award-winning image, and also explored her body of work, to find out more about the photographic messages she’s sharing with the world.
Your photograph, Feather and the Goddess Pool, recently won the 2015 People’s Choice Prize in Australia’s National Photographic Portrait competition. Why do you think people of all ages and genders seem to resonate so much with this image?
I think the image resonates with people because it invites them to examine a confident elderly woman who is proud of her body. She is not afraid to show the lines that inscribe her life story. It confronts the viewer’s impressions of beauty, as opposed to a culture where we are saturated with imagery of young models wearing bikinis.
Feather’s inner strength inspires people and also confronts people’s judgments. The portrait reveals the personality of a woman that people feel intrigued by.
In previous interviews, you’ve mentioned that it’s not often you see women of her age in bikinis. Why do you think that is?
No, we don’t see women of her age in bikinis because we are saturated with the same imagery attached to youth and beauty. It also takes a hell of a lot of courage and confidence for a 78-year-old woman to stand outside of what society views as appropriate.
What is your favorite moment or detail of this photograph?
I love Feather’s body posture, the hands on the hips, the overall boldness.
Is this image part of a larger series, perhaps celebrating confidence or even exploring a different theme?
Yes, this image is to be part of a larger body of work that explores womanhood, and in particular, the pool of strong, remarkable and creative woman who reside in and around Byron Bay (Australia), an alternative hot spot.
In your work, you seem to focus on unconventional, unorthodox and alternative lifestyles. What draws you to that material?
I am interested in alternative lifestyles in my work as I love to illustrate open mindfulness and create imagery that is daily life but extraordinary.
Check out more of Grono’s work featuring the power and grace of women, below:
(All images courtesy of Natalie Grono)