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I Don't Need A Man; these photos of a 97-year-old artist living life to the full will fill you with joy

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For the past five years, photographer, Candace Karch, from Philadelphia, has been taking photographs of a 97-year-old artist, for a project entitled The Ms. Ulmer Series.

The pair met in 2007 and have become close friends through the project.

Marie Ulmer is an artist who has created an artwork every day for ninety years, working from her home studio in Philadelphia. Her work covers a range of media but most notable are her self-portraits.

Ulmer was an only child and never married or had children, so, in her own words, she “drew who was available” and found companionship through her art.

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(Photo: Candace Karch)

"We have both lived our lives much like the lyrics of The Pussycat dolls' song I Don't Need A Man," says Karch. "Though I admit, I have let men distract me. Marie has gone about her business as if they don't exist for anything other than to fix a roof."

Although Ulmer now lives in a care home, she lived alone in her apartment for the past 35 years and Karch’s photographs are an inspiration to anyone who fears living alone. Today, Karch continues to visit and photograph Ulmer in her assisted living facility.

The photographs span five years and show Ulmer in her day-to-day life, working on her art, sitting on the sofa or hanging the washing – and every image reveals a little about her playful, positive personality.

“In the years that I have been photographing her, I have discovered how her alter ego – a part of her personality she never explored – has developed in front of the camera, becoming my muse," explains Karch.

marie

(Photo: Candace Karch)

The photographs reveal the magic behind the quotidian life: on the surface, they show an elderly woman going about her business, but looked at more closely, they are intimate photographs, taken inside her personal space, amongst her most prized possessions - shelves of trinkets give an insight into the artist’s soul.

“I collect most everything,” said Ulmer. “Any knickknack just because I like looking at them.”

The images elevate the commonplace to something worthy of noticing.

The magic of the photographs come as a result of the close relationship that has formed between the two artists. Karch has said: "Because I am so dependent on Marie in order to make a good image, I am less anxious about this work. I can rely more on what naturally happens between us instead of putting all the pressure on myself."

marie

(Photo: Candace Karch)

Through the photographs, Ulmer has revealed her sense of humour and joie de vivre. Karch says:

"She loves the attention, and I wish that this would have happened sooner for her. I tapped into something she never revealed. She probably was not aware of it either. We both have a sense of humor and she likes showing off for the camera." (sic)

Words: Harriet Hall

Images: Candace Karch

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