GB Editor’s note: we are thrilled to share this interview given exclusively to Karen by Peter Freed and Lee Woodruff, in support of “The Prime Book.” Quotes and photos are used and shared here with permission.
For 30 years, celebrity photographer Peter Freed spent his time touching up photographs before they went to print. The resulting photographs showed nothing but perfection for the covers of major magazines and newspaper articles. Peter was a master at creating stunning photographs that showed each person at their touched-up best.
“I was in the business of contributing to the magazines’ perpetuation of beauty and what beauty is,” Peter said. “I was part of that whole thing.”
Peter didn’t start out his career as a celebrity photographer, in fact, his introduction to a photography career had an accidental beginning. Peter worked on a fishing boat in Alaska, taught skiing in Switzerland, and built houses in Colorado before he discovered a passion for capturing photographs. He started freelancing for the Denver Post and then took a full-time job as a staff photographer for the Westport News in Connecticut. From there, he moved to the New York Times.
“I was drawn to people in photography than other things–because I’m a people person,” Peter said. “Later, I came to work with celebrities and I treated them like everyone else–I would ask questions about being a person not a celebrity–and that would put them at ease.”
A few years ago, Harpers Bazaar featured black and white photographs of top supermodels minus makeup and styled hair. Around the same time, Dove released a campaign celebrating women in every shape and form. Intrigued, Peter came up with an idea for a book that would celebrate women in the their prime. A book that would defy the conventions of how a woman, at any given age, should look, act and love.
But why just women, and not men, too?
“I grew up with two older sisters and I raised two daughters–I was more aware than the average man of the issues that women face concerning their looks, beauty, and health,” Peter said. “Most of my friends are women–they’re ultimately more interesting. Women are better storytellers. Guys are about how much money they earn and what kind of car they’re driving.”
The more Peter thought about the book, the more an idea began to take shape. He wanted to focus not only on capturing the beauty of women growing older but their stories as well. He didn’t want to just have women who were well known celebrities, but also women whose stories could help other women in daily life. As one referral lead to another, the stories ran deep. Each woman, from age 35 to 104, poured their heart and soul into sharing their lives.
“It was great to meet them,” Peter said. “Each woman submitted an essay of what it meant to be a woman in their prime–the hardships they experienced in life, the trials, how they overcame them and dealt with them. The book is more than just a beautiful photo book, but a vehicle to help women who are facing the same challenges that these women are facing.”
As he photographed each woman, Peter found himself forming conclusions or certain impressions based on what he saw. When he received their essays a week or two later, he was stunned to discover a completely different perspective that formed after he read each story. He was completely moved by the essays about the complexity of being a woman and the authentic way that they were experiencing their lives. Peter took this experience and crafted it into the layout of the book–he wanted each reader to have the same effect.
Peter took the book to traditional publishers only to find them interested, but not convinced, about the topic of women in their prime. Change it to all celebrities, they suggested. But Peter didn’t want to do that. The celebrities in the book were people he knew from the business, but there were many unsung heroes, too. He wanted those stories told. Peter felt so strongly about keeping the stories intact that he decided to publish it himself.
Lee Woodruff from Good Morning America (wife of ABC News reporter, Bob Woodruff) is one of the celebrities featured in the book. “It was liberating to post without makeup and to pose the way I appear to myself and my family the way I see myself,” Lee said. “Part of owning who you are at this age is being comfortable with all kinds of things that would have mortified my younger self; the advancement of aging, the changes in our bodies, the fierce way we can tackle disappointment and loss and then regroup and recharge and come back out ready to do it all over again.”
For more info on Prime and to support the project: The Prime Book by Peter Freed
Karen Putz is an author, speaker, and Passion Mentor who helps others unwrap their passions at any age. For fun, she walks on water with the assistance of a rope, boat, and driver. Connect with Karen via Twitter, Instagram,Facebook, and her website: Ageless Passions.