by Cynthia Wands
I didn’t get to know many elderly people as a child growing up in a family that moved frequently, and we had only rare visits with extended family. My father was in the military and we relocated according to his next assignment in the Air Force, which meant we lived in a bubble of other young, middle class, and rigidly insular, people.
My mother’s Irish parents were elderly, and affectionate in an offhand way – but they weren’t accessible to sharing anything intimate or challenging. Their accelerated aging seem like a horrific journey into dementia and neglect. As a child I remember thinking that I didn’t want to look like them. (They looked “old”.) My father’s parents were a Scottish/Presbyterian clan, vital and athletic and keen of mind: until they aged in their eighties. And then, stroke and illness eventually robbed them of their earlier beauty. My attachment to who they were, prevented me from finding more of the beautiful and poignant aspects of their aging.
I don’t see many older faces in the television and movies and theatre that are available to me. (I’m also sequestered at home, so that limits what I can access.) But I’m constantly flipping the channel of my television, looking for faces of interesting, evolved, older people. I have dear and heart close friends who are in their eighties and nineties and I’m so grateful to be able to witness our time together, in whatever age and shape we’re in now.
I recently discovered an artist, Jonas Peterson, who is creating a series of images called: Youth is wasted on the young. He uses a AI (Artificial Intelligence) program called Midjourney. Here’s what he has to say about this process:
The idea behind “Youth is wasted on the young” was to celebrate the so called old, a comment on ageism if you want. A positive quiet homage to people who’ve seen more than us, been there, done that and I wanted their confidence and pride to be seen. I used fashion to show off their personalities, their attitude and inner rebels shining through the facade of age. I’m a photographer and interested in both styling and fashion, but these aren’t photos and the clothes are not real. Instead I’ve used artificial intelligence to create the scenes, the people and what they’re wearing. I give specific direction using words only to a program, lenses, angles, camera choice, color theme, colors, styling, backgrounds, attitude and overall look and the AI goes to work, it sends back suggestions and more often than not it’s completely wrong, so I try other ways to describe what I’m after, change wording, move phrases around and try to get the AI to understand the mood. It’s frustrating mostly, the AI is still learning, but getting any collaborator to understand you can be difficult no matter if it’s a human or a machine. After a long stretch of trial and error I get closer to a style and look I want and after that it comes down to curation, picking the renders I believe go well together, I start making it a series. To me the process is similar to that of a film director’s, I direct the AI the same way they would talk to an actor or set designer, it’s a process, we try over and over again until we get it right. Should I get all the credit? God, no, the AI creates with my help and direction, it’s a collaboration between a real brain and an artificial one. I’ve been open with that and you don’t need to go back many posts to realize I’ve used AI for this. I answered comments, but no matter how many times I said it was created using AI through MidJourney, other people asked the exact same thing over and over again, so I simply stopped. I’m not here to debate the process, I’m a professional photographer, writer and artist myself, I understand the implications, how this will affect many creative fields in the future. I’m simply using a tool available to me to tell stories, the same way I’ve always told stories – to move people. To me that is the point of this, not how I did it. Dissecting something will almost always kill it.
Youth is wasted on the young:
I found his images to be wonderfully fantastic. Having worked with “digital art” for the last few years, I know how flat the medium can seem. I love how these people seem to have their own style and a world that they inhabit. I love the colors and the fashion and the hair. What characters. What stories in these images. Here is some of the artwork that he has shared:
Here is where you can find more of his artwork, and some of his musings on body size, aegism, AI artwork and more. Seeing these images this week has really cheered me up – I hope they do the same for you.
Also, a more complete look at his work can be found on Instagram: