A group of Gabriola women are baring all in a charity calendar that embraces aging and challenges notions of beauty.
More than 50 women age 50 and up are participating in the Faerie Goddess Mothers of Gabriola 2022 calendar, which is now available for pre-order and goes on sale in October. Proceeds will go towards 12 Gabriola and Nanaimo charities, with buyers able to select which organization to support.
The project is led by Dorothy Engst, who came up with the idea while at a small outdoor women’s gathering. Engst lives with a rare disease that caused her body weight to drop to 80 pounds, but being among friends gave her strength.
“As we were sitting there I just felt so uplifted that I just felt like ripping my clothes off and saying, ‘You know what? Here I am just as I am. I am powerful,’” Engst said.
It’s that feeling of empowerment that inspired Engst to create the calendar. She said part of embracing aging is embracing what happens to one’s body as it ages, rather than seek to conform to a certain definition of beauty.
“These women over 50 have gone through a lot in their lives. Many of the women are cancer survivors that are in the calendar,” Engst said. “So I just thought it would be a beautiful opportunity to put something beautiful out there with a really powerful message, as well.”
Engst said she was surprised by which of her friends agreed to model in the calendar. She said the women she thought would be most hesitant often said “yes,” while those she assumed would be on board turned her down.
“And then in my weird mind I’m thinking, ‘Well, who am I missing?’ Because I don’t want to offend anybody,” Engst said. “I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings because they haven’t been asked to pose nude.”
The photos were all taken in the Gabriola wilderness and sometimes required trudging 20 minutes into the woods in nothing but bathrobes and rubber boots. Being in nature inspired the faerie motif, as a graphic designer has added faerie wings to the models in the photographs.
“We have a lot of joy left in us and we’ve got a lot of years ahead of us to continue celebrating and I just wanted to express that joy and I felt the faerie wings were a good way to do it,” Engst said.
The project is a year in the making, as each month’s photo was taken during that month. Engst said she enjoyed the experience because it gave her a year of “amazing” photo shoots.
“When I was at an all-time low it was like a photo day was coming and I would just get myself rested in preparation and it was awesome every time,” she said. “It would lift me up. It’s like there was a glow around everybody.”
The calendar is available here.