Shooting Elderly Portraits for a Cause

Posted on September 24th, by Danny Santos II in Client Work. 37 comments

Project Silverline

There is a significant population of elderlies in Singapore who live alone in one-bedroom flats, some of them have no next of kin. Project Silverline is an initiative by Singtel to improve the way of living for these folks using donated iPhones with specially created applications designed to help reduce isolation and open their world to new experiences. It was an honor for me to be a small part of this initiative through photography.

Part of my involvement was to take portraits of some of these old folks. When Jacinta from Ogilvy asked if I was keen to do this, I immediately said yes. I’ve always had a fascination with faces, and even after finishing my Portraits of Strangers project, I still wanted a chance to take photos of seniors… not to create those ‘Sin City’-like images that enhances wrinkles for the sake of grit – I just wanted to photograph up-close something as simple as a smile, or a laugh, or a stare of someone who’s gone through most of life. I know photographs rarely tell stories, but I wanted to take a portrait of someone you know has many of them… more than most of us.

The old folks to be photographed were suggested by non-profit groups Lions Befrienders and Willing Hearts. I’ve spoken to one of the volunteers: she told me that they actively search for senior citizens living in isolation often through hospital referrals, sometimes through random encounters. Once the folks warm up to them, the volunteers engage and empower them through regular community activities as well as provide needed community support. Often times, seniors would volunteer to help fellow seniors. I was touched by the whole initiative and was just so happy to be part of the project.

On the first photo shoot session, I was expecting a bit of difficulty due to the fact that most of them don’t speak English, and there’s this usual impression that old folks don’t like to be photographed. Much to my surprise, they were all very welcoming and cooperative. They knew enough English.. or if not, they easily picked up cues on what to do. Some of them just kept smiling or laughing as soon as we started.

Project Silverline

Project Silverline

Project Silverline

Project Silverline

Project Silverline

Project Silverline

I have to say, they were quite sweet. The ladies were very motherly, and the gents shook my hand in appreciation. Right after each shoot, they’d smile and say “thank you.” Photographing them was a heartwarming experience.

Donate to Project Silverline

If you have used iPhones lying around the house, or if you’re about to upgrade to the newest model, please consider donating to Project Silverline. These old folks are surprisingly welcoming with smart phone technology, especially with the custom apps specifically designed to help and inspire them. Here’s a little more info about the project:

For more information on how to donate, please click here.

37 thoughts on “Shooting Elderly Portraits for a Cause

  1. I’m glad you chose “not to create those ‘Sin City’-like images that enhances wrinkles for the sake of grit”. The subjects are then free to exude whatever characteristic they possess instead of the photographer deciding for them. Nice work.

  2. Of all your projects this is my personal favorite Danny. The elderly have such beautiful texture and spirit – both elegantly captured and frozen in time by your keen eye. You are and always will be an inspiration.

  3. Hi Danny,

    I’ve always been a lurker here in your blog since I discovered it. However, no other article or photo moved me to write a comment than this blurb about SingTel’s Project Silverline. I’m Pinoy, too, so I understand where you’re coming from when you wrote about being drawn towards meaningful projects, especially this one that benefits the elderly. I’m not an iPhone user, but now I’m thinking of buying one just to have something to donate. Or maybe I can just volunteer and spend some time with the elderly, because I think that would benefit not only them but also me.

    Thanks for being an inspiration not only in terms of your art. I’m looking forward to more of your projects :)

  4. I can appreciate the initiative and its purpose. We have lots of elderly living on their own over here, including me, and I am very appreciative of my smartphone’s connectivity capability. These are lovely photos; it’s amazing the differences in expression which, for me, tells us who they are as a person…you know what I mean!

  5. I LOVE all of these-very difficult to pick a fairovte BUT if I had to narrow it down-love the B&W ones-especially the one of them laying in the grass and then the other with their backs against each other. Ok-so maybe I can’t narrow it down I love them all! I love all of them too and looking forward to meeting Brody!

  6. your shots are very sharp. may i ask if your using 85mm 1.4? you’re one of my inspiration since i started my photography here in CDO, Phil. your captured photos are very simple yet uniquely done. the bokehs are very smooth and soothing to the eyes. over all, I really like the way you capture moments and the way you enhance your photos. so natural and elegant.

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  15. Hey Danny, I love your work! I am working in a project with elderly people in my city. I’d like to know how did you make this great portraits, lens, f stop, light, post process technique, all you can tell me, I’ll apreciate it since I have to do their portraits in the place that they are sitting without much possibility to look for better light or better backdrops.

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