Earlier this week I attended the Ari Seth Cohen lecture and book signing at the Phoenix Art Museum. I caught a glimpse of his story on television, and when I found out he was coming to Phoenix I jumped at the chance to hear him speak. Ari is the author and photographer of the book and blog Advanced Style. He originally hails from San Diego, but moved to New York where he began taking photographs. His pictures, referred to as street style, consist mostly of fashionable women along with a few men in the 60+ age group.
As an added bonus Ari brought along one of his beautiful subjects, Debra Rapoport. Debra talked about the time when Ari first approached her to take her picture. She accepted the mission, but also extended an invitation to her home for lunch and they became great friends.
Both Ari and Debra discussed how they were given the freedom to express their creative sides as children. Ari took inspiration from his grandparents and old movie stars. He began sketching pictures of fashionable women around age six which he shared with the audience. Debra also told a story about being able to play with her grandmother’s jar of beautiful buttons as a child.
Ari’s book, Advanced Style, is filled with amazing photographs and insightful quotes from some of his muses. In an era where fashion can be lacking, these women still take the time to get dressed up. Whether it’s by using a designer, vintage, thrift, or handmade piece, these women style looks which are truly inspiring. For example, Debra told the audience she designed the hat she was wearing out of paper towels, and some of her jewelry with toilet paper rolls. These women are not afraid to express themselves, and during a time when fashion can be so judgmental they do not shy away. They do it the right way. They have fun.
The pot of gold at the end of this rainbow is not about the fashion. Although it may initially catch the eye, there is something much deeper below the surface. All the women and men have a story. They have lived full lives and possess a great amount of wisdom. At times when most of us take things for granted, they do not. They appreciate the small things and live life to its fullest.
For me, this is the real lesson behind Ari’s story. We should always have the utmost respect for our elders, and seek to learn as much as we can from them for they are our teachers. I can only imagine what great things Ari has learned during his journey of creating Advanced Style. Yes, the fashion aspect is amazing, but the wisdom gained from his subjects must be the real gift.
Thank you to Ari and Debra for coming to Phoenix, and to the Phoenix Art Museum for holding this event. I will treasure my copy of Advanced Style and look forward to seeing the documentary. As Ari says, “Style gets better with age.”