Wonderfully 100

NORMAN LEAR ON NEARING 100

When I was in first grade, I found that I could turn my eyelids inside out. There was another kid in my class who was a bit of a bully, but he stopped harassing me and protected me from other harassers when my trick made him giggle… At six years of age, I discovered the power of laughter.

Now, at 94, I look back with a smile at such memories. Thirty-four years ago, at 60, I expressed it…this way: “I’m very interested to see what kind of old man I’ll be. I don’t want to rush it, but I approach that period with considerable interest.”

…At 40, I thought I’d be an old man when I reached my seventies. But by the time I reached 60, I figured I wouldn’t dodder until perhaps my eighties. The big surprise to me is that the dodderer has yet to arrive, and that today I still don’t feel old. I continue to look down at my arm as I peck away at my computer and wonder what my father’s hand is doing hanging out of my sleeve. Maybe the fact that I’ve been thinking about longevity as far back as I can remember has something to do with it.

— Norman Lear, age 94, began his television writing career in 1950. He is best known for producing the Emmy award–winning All in the Family, as well as Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons.

 

By Robin Jay

“Audrey James from Las Vegas was a very strong, caring woman. Even at her age, still volunteering. She reminded me of the importance of helping others – and how it has served her well in her long life. She lived by herself, was completely self-sufficient. She seemed much younger than her age. I love this image of her,” Mobley said.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then portraits of centenarians are priceless and photographer Paul Mobley is the world’s most valuable storyteller without even having to utter a word.

Mobley’s latest published book of portraits, “If I Live To Be 100,” celebrates Americans in all 50 of our United States who have celebrated their 100th birthday. The compelling pub serves as an encore to his 2008 award-winner, American Farmer: Portraits from the Heartland.

“My American Farmer book was an accident. A glorious accident,” Paul told Opulence. “I decided to take an entire summer off and not take any pictures. I needed a break. I have a small cabin in Northern Michigan that I go to in the summer for peace and refuge. That summer, I walked into a coffee shop and saw four farmers. I looked across the room and saw those faces and HAD to photograph them. I approached the guys and asked if I could come over and take their pictures. They laughed and one said, ‘Why would you want to take a picture of an ugly old guy like me? I haven’t taken a bath in a week!’ Well, the rest is history, Before that, I had never set foot on a farm in my life.

“The Ah-Ha moment for me,” Mobley continued, “was the ‘basic human kindness’ of these gentle and honest people. I was treated like family at every farm I visited. I’m a better person because of that entire experience. Meeting all the great and active 100-year-olds (on the farm) was the prime reason for doing my latest book. Just fascinated by those people.”

“I photographed Henry Miller at the airport near his house,” Mobley said. “Obviously, he loved to fly. He showed up with his old bomber jacket and leather hat. It’s moments like these that can turn a good picture into a special picture. After we finished shooting, he showed me around the airport and joyfully talked about all the artifacts he collected over the years. A true pilot at heart!”

PLAN B
For most of Mobley’s photography books, he would fly all over the country, rent cars and deal with the typical chaos associated with the logistical hassle of planes, trains and automobiles-for-hire. So, for “If I Live To Be 100,” the portraiteur came up with a different plan.

“I thought it would be a more personal and pleasurable experience to drive the entire journey, in a cool motor home. Airstream was very helpful in providing me with an Interstate van,” Mobley explained. “I then decided to take my wife and the dog. It was a perfect trip, great fun, and the ultimate way to make this book. Experiencing each city and town helped me understand and fully experience my subjects’ lives and how they lived. Not to mention, finding a bunch of great new places in our country.”

“The image of Irving Olson (left) and I is very special for me,” Mobley said. “The fact that he’s a photographer and dressed up for the shoot was memorable. I remember one of my subjects said the key to long life was to ‘get a dog.’ When I rescued Jessie, my Shar-Pei, it certainly added years to my life. He’s a special animal and has brought us all lots of joy. Having him on the trip made it even better. He’s got more hotel points than most of my friends. This image really summarizes the joy I had doing the entire project.”

Mobley peppers his heartfelt collection of portraits with personal stories and quotes of wisdom that come only from the gift of longevity. These special 100-somethings offer eyewitness accounts of a century subjugated with wars of the world, cultural revolutions, space exploration and a technological transformation.

“These remarkable people remind us that love, loss, hope, and grief are essential ingredients in a full life and that humor can get us through the worst of times,” Mobley said.

One of the funnyman featured in the book is Emmy-award-winning television producer Norman Lear. He loved the portraits so much that he agreed to write the forward.

“Norman leads a very active life: He works every day and practices yoga. Yes, he’s very funny but also very kind and articulate. It was a pleasure spending time with him. I remember him telling me he’s ‘dancing thru his nineties’ on his way to 100 years old. He told me a good ‘belly laugh’ can add up to a minute to one’s life! Keep the humor he said!”

Paul Mobley traveled the U.S.to photograph some of the most interesting centenarians you’ll ever meet.

Cheers and hats-off to the more than 70,000 centenarians who reside in our fair country –
and congratulations to all of you on lives well lived.

Wonderfully 100