Nationally recognized photographer visits Ovation Communities as part of changing conversation around aging

In August, Colorado photographer and Racine native, Heidi Wagner, returned home to Wisconsin. She spent several days at Ovation Communities photographing residents as part of The Passions Project, her portrait series featuring older adults living out their passions.

Wagner founded The Passions Project in 2011 while she was simultaneously working at a retirement community in Colorado and getting back into photography. She noticed a gap between what people thought aging looked like and the reality of the lives of the residents she worked with. The experience sparked an idea, and Wagner began photographing the residents participating in their favorite activities. While she didn’t originally intend for The Passions Project to be an ongoing, national undertaking, she quickly saw a need to help eradicate ageism, by starting to change the way people think and talk about getting older.

“How our culture views aging and what aging really looks like are two very different things,” said Wagner. “By shifting focus to people’s passions rather than their age we start to gain a new and important perspective.”

Wagner begins each project by sitting down and really getting to know her subjects, which helps her gain a better understanding of their individual stories. Wagner spent several days living alongside residents at Ovation Chai Point to get to better know the community. By learning about their day-to-day activities, Wagner was able to develop her creative plan for photographing them. The images she captured show Ovation residents living out their passions, by painting, knitting, writing, working in the gift shop, and more.

The culminating exhibit was on view in the Ovation Chai Point Lobby in November and December. The broader community was invited to view the photographs and celebrate life and the beauty of aging.

Wagner learned a lot of valuable life lessons while at Ovation Communities, including advice she received from a resident who told her not to think about age and its limitations but to focus on the things in life that engage us and help us live whole lives.

“Ovation’s residents have so much wisdom, honesty and truth to offer, and I really enjoyed the time I spent with them,” said Wagner.

“Ovation is such a vibrant community, and the great care everyone shows for one another is evident. I hope The Passions Project helps shine a spotlight and remind others how exciting and fulfilling life can be.”