People spend thousands of dollars to make themselves look smoother, younger, fresher, thinner, more beautiful.
Yet few of them ever get the response that this man and woman, lovers in their 70s, have received by posing naked, untouched by Photoshop, embellished only by time.
More than 4 million people have seen their striking black-and-white portrait online in recent days. The response among more than 2,000 Facebook comments is a universal “wow.”
Tucson photographer Jade Beall posted the photo, and two others of the couple, to her Facebook page on June 24 and later to Instagram.
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The portrait shows Gerry, 75, and Darwin, 70, “beloveds for over 20 years,” Beall wrote. (The couple asked her not to use their last names.)
They are naked, posed in a standing embrace, legs and arms entwined, the smiles on their faces expressing enviable love.
“I love my body,” Gerry told Beall. “I use a cane, I am having vision problems and my breasts reach to my waist, but you know what? I like me!”
Beall is known for her nakedly real, un-Photoshopped portraits showing bodies of many ages, races and sizes, reports the Arizona Republic.
“My goal is to create truthful imagery to inspire self-love and to help others feel seen,” she told the newspaper.
“I feel honored when something goes viral. I feel like people are saying, 'Yes, I want to see more of this.’ There’s a yearning to see a realness and truthfulness. The supermodel has it and the stay-at-home mom has it.”
In 2012 Beall co-founded A Beautiful Body Project, a group of 24 female photographers, videographers and journalists in seven countries who are telling women’s stories about their bodies and lives.
The Republic reported this isn’t the first time Beall’s work has gone viral. Last year Facebook removed one of her photos showing a group of women breastfeeding.
Beall writes online that she is “starting a new series on beloveds over 60 because I wish to be free from the imposed beliefs.” Gerry and Darwin are part of that series.
“Working with them was just so easy. I was moved to tears many times,” she told the newspaper. “They’re so in love. They started kissing a few times and I was like, ‘Damn, I haven’t kissed like that in years!’
“They have so much juiciness and palpable love we were able to capture in an image.”
She was not alone in responding to the couple’s “palpable love.” People who have commented on the photo on Facebook are struck by the couple’s bond.
“They look so happy,” wrote one woman. “Even if you didn't find those bodies beautiful (and they are!) how can you not be moved to tears seeing the love that flows between them?!?”
But more than anything the photograph has people talking about beauty, or what society deems beautiful. That was Beall’s point in taking the portrait.
Alongside the photos of Gerry and Darwin on her Instagram account Beall wonders why “we accept to believe that one thing must be more beautiful than another? Why cannot we embrace a million-billion definitions of beautiful?
“The divine: skin that drapes, stretches, sags, wrinkles, burns and rebuilds like spiraling Fibonacci across our fragile and strong bones made from the same stuff as the stars all combining to create this phenomenon that comes to life for a short amount of times that we call... bodies.
“These elder bodies: the temples to decades of wisdom, heartbreak, strength, failure, triumph, THRIVING. How, I wonder, could they be anything but beautiful?”
Most of the people commenting online agree with her.
“For me, these are 1000x more interesting to look at than photos of ‘conventionally attractive’ people,” one woman wrote. “Conventionally attractive is beautiful too, but it's vanilla. What's weird is that most bodies are very different from the ones we are used to seeing. It's like we see 1% of bodies 99% of the time.”
“So beautiful! These two people are truly stunning,” another woman wrote. “I think I've become desensitized to 'conventional beauty' because unless we lock ourselves in a cabin in the woods with no magazines or Internet, we can't escape it!
“I should be hopeful that in 50 years I have lots of wrinkles and my shape has matured, that my face shows my experiences. The alternative is quite bleak!”
The couple knows what a splash they’ve made. Gerry wrote an email to Beall, the newspaper reports, telling her that she and Darwin love the photos and are grateful they have gone viral.
“I am thrilled that so many people responded to these photos with HOPE for their own lives,” Gerry wrote. “It’s WHY we agreed to uncover for the camera. We wanted to show that wrinkles and aging, sagging body parts are NOT barriers to love unless you let them be.
“Like fine wine or good cheese, we are more fully ourselves and more full of Love in our 70s than we ever were in our 30s and 40s ...”