By Ashley Claire Simpson
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tangible reminder that the sky is the limit, regardless of your age?
For 2018, there is such a thing for women. Manassas photographer Dawn Gardner, the founder of Dawn Gardner Photography, teamed up with another local, Jinnae Monroe of Bristow, to produce an inspiring 2018 calendar, featuring the images of empowered women that break societal molds.
“This calendar is about beauty and strength, and about embracing the beauty, strength and wisdom that comes with age,” Gardner said. “The women I photographed for calendar are all between ages 50 and 80. They have amazing stories and lived amazing lives and guess what? They are still in the process of leaving legacies; every single day they are impacting people around them, and looking very stylish and beautiful at the same time.”
Monroe is the founder of the local non-profit organization that assists high school women in their quest to identify and then pursue meaningful career paths.
While Gardner captured the images with her photography prowess, Monroe had the connections to find the subjects – the sources of inspiration. She was the one to select all 13 women – the number of women being 13 since one month features a set of twins.
“I personally knew all the women from different walks of life,” Monroe explained. “I’m on the Prince William County Chamber of Commerce, so I knew them from the Chamber or from other volunteer organizations. Somehow, standing next to them, I got to absorb their stories and they stuck with me. So, when Dawn and I were brainstorming about where we could find the women to showcase, I said, ‘I think I know enough women who will say ‘yes.’”
As someone behind the lens and in the age group that she features in this 2018 calendar, Gardner has a multi-dimensional perspective of the effects of society on aging women.
“My philosophy is that all women undervalue themselves,” Gardner said. “I believe all women are not only unique, but are uniquely beautiful. Our culture tells them that they aren’t good enough, are not this, are not that, or that if they don’t have a certain body type and if they don’t look a certain way, then they are not beautiful. I’m on a mission to stop that. Women in particular over 50 are not represented properly in the marketing campaigns. Currently, most marketing is directed toward young women. Just flip through any fashion magazine, you’ll find that almost all the ads are featuring young women. Aging is not something to be hidden away in marketing, we, as a culture, need to embrace women of ages.”
Despite that all the calendar’s subjects being within a certain age group, it is a work of art that will inspire all females.
“This is a tribute to these women, but an inspiration for all women,” Gardner said. “While they were in hair and makeup, I asked all 13 women to think about one thing they would tell their 20-year-old selves. The things they said were hugely profound, so I included the nuggets of wisdom in the calendar. It’s all amazingly profound.”
The calendar certainly draws a sword on any fears that women may have about aging.
“This shows that it shouldn’t matter what the media says you should look like,” Gardner said. “If you want to keep your hair long, or wear baseball caps every day, or you want to be a fashion icon, or focus on wearing amazing accessories, then do it,” Gardner said. “You are uniquely beautiful at any age.”
All proceeds from the calendar will go to Hire Ground, and Monroe said they are already almost sold out.
“The feedback has been amazing,” Monroe said. “People want to know how we selected the women in the calendar, and everyone wants to know what our next project is going to be. We launched on Sunday, Nov. 4, and it was a limited edition of 300 copies. We’ve already sold more than 200 of the 300 printed.”
Monroe added that if there is enough demand, she and Gardner are open to printing more.
As of now, the calendars are on sale at the Gainesville location of Chico’s, as well as at Dawn Gardner’s Manassas Studio.