Artist’s statement

Here's something I find profound: now, in my mid-70s, I'm happier, I care more about other people, and I trust my instincts more than ever before. This is despite the humiliations of aging, like no longer being efficient with certain tasks and responsibilities, or the frustration that my natural walking speed has decreased so that I have to be careful rather than joyful when I speed up; and then, of course, the dreaded memory failures. All of this and much more is visible in my body and the way I carry myself. 

I wondered how other women felt about their bodies as they aged, so I began to photograph my contemporaries nude. What an empowering experience this offered nearly all of the women who posed for the photographs! There is magic in acknowledging and granting an older woman the interest and appreciation our culture usually reserves for the young. 

Gleaned from her posture and embedded in a woman’s flesh is her life story as well as who she is now. There's no need for her to pose or alter her appearance in any way. Each woman is perfect when naked, naked in every way.

DSC09242 shira pic of nh.jpg


gorgeous ruined temples
wilted flowers still vivid
tear-trailed-carved arms and legs
ancient big-bellied goddesses
     sagging from birthing
     sagging from loving            

-Barbara Schmitz

I expected to be embarrassed posing nude at 84 years old, but I was amazed at what an empowering experience it was. In one sense it was so easy it was almost a non-event; in another it was truly a landmark in self appreciation.
- Anonymous

One has the sense that Hellebrand is excavating her own mortality in these photographs while at the same time discovering the eternal female life force in them.

-Paul Cava,
American artist photographer and private photography dealer and publisher. 

The closing lines from Walt Whitman’s great poem “I Sing the Body Electric”:
‘O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only,
but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!'

How can we live fully – or die in peace - if we are afraid to think about death? And what does the future hold for a world that no longer values the temperance and balance that come with hard-won experience?

In this work, Nancy Hellebrand challenges us to ask these questions.  By uncovering her subjects, she takes away our last defense – our ability to hide from aging by focusing on costumes and contexts.

-Andrea Blanch, PhD
President of the Center for Religious Tolerance, a non-profit organization promoting the ideals of peace and religious tolerance. A former mental health commissioner, Andrea is widely known for her efforts in psychiatric rehabilitation, conflict management, and recovery from trauma.

Yet these photographs make me think of a deeper beauty. I think of my heroic beloved grandmother who kept her seven children safe in the pale of Russia and brought them to the safety of South Africa … Her hugs enfolded me in her many layers of fat – she spent all day in the kitchen cooking after all. Her ankles were swollen and her varicosities were obvious. Tears come to my eyes thinking of her. She was perfect.

-Barry Bub, MD
Innovative Teacher of Communication Arts and author