Mature Woman Series by MARGOT MUIR

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Mary Oliver


If we cannot redefine the illusions of misogyny, youth culture and the mirror surface of consumer advertising, we will misunderstand that each mature woman holds within her a strident reality, a voice and an unequivocal life.

The focus is on youth in our culture. A kind of misdirected absorption. The point of this series is to examine the beauty of maturity. The women who understand love and grief, the realm of imperfection, who hold life with a tenderness, whose narratives are at times inconvenient, and whose intellect and sensuality has shifted with experience, are at once essentially knowledgeable, talented, mortal and remarkable.

Each portrait seeks to be both liberating and defining of each individual. And it is purely documentary work, hardly directed other than to request each to choose their most comforting, their most favourite space, in their home. The project addresses the systemic absence of older woman.  Their presence in this series, their individualism celebrated, and their chosen environments amplify and expand our perceptions of them.  Irrevocably, mature women are determining a widening space where patriarchy has no foothold.

Each image serves to both confirm, celebrate (and disrupt) the accepted concept of maturity.

As Susan Sontag suggests: ‘Women have another option. They can aspire to be wise, not merely nice; to be competent, not merely helpful; to be strong, not merely graceful; to be ambitious for themselves, not merely for themselves in relation to men and children. They can let themselves age naturally and without embarrassment, actively protesting and disobeying the conventions that stem from this society’s double standard about aging. Instead of being girls, girls as long as possible, who then age humiliatingly into middle-aged women, they can become women much earlier – and remain active adults, enjoying the long, erotic career of which women are capable, far longer. Women should allow their faces to show the lives they have lived. Women should tell the truth.’

Susan Sontag – The Double Standard of Aging (1972).



Like Judith Joy Ross, the photographer whose work stretches me, influences me profoundly, I have a radical belief in the individual. There is a perfect space between (and within) the potential strength of the collective and the talent, character and thrust of each of us. It seems to me there is an exquisite space between the spectacle of Western individualism and the intelligence of collective humanism and its wonderful power. The coalescing of the Individual being (and individual presence, voice and affirmation in the world) and ‘I am because of others’. The assumption that Ubuntu necessarily informs an absence of individuality is a distortion, not so?

Another distortion is the belief that consumerism in a capitalist system defines our cravings and desires. Consumerism is driven by advertising. And the advertising business is dominated by the young. And the young, while persuasive, cannot hope to understand our lived complexity nor anticipate it.

I am a mature documentary photographer, I am nearly 60, and the work is my lifeblood. My work crystallised under the teaching of Chris Giglio’s Grammar of Photography series at the International Center of Photography, New York. Photography is all about failure, it is like a sport, the more you practice, the more you hone the intuitive, the more likely you will have a day when everything falls into place. My work has been exhibited and awarded both locally and internationally and is now in the permanent collection of the NMM Art museum. I am a teacher and a scholar, I lectured in Visual Arts at the Nelson Mandela University for 10 years and I will teach again in 2023 in the newly formed non-profit (online) C.A.T. Photography Institute together with nine other founding members; Mandisa Buthelezi, Ashraf Jamal, Tim Hopwood, James Sey, Meg Rickards, Roddy MacInnes, Nick Hauser and Nontsikelelo Veleko (and, in time, if I can finally persuade her, Zanele Muholi).