Photographer. Filmmaker. TV Producer. Writer. Coach.These are just a few words to describe Gayle Kirschenbaum, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker whose films and programs have premiered on Netflix, HBO, A&E, and Discovery. Here, we talk to Kirschenbaum about her creativity, her love of photography, her latest projects, and what the portrait of an artist looks like during the pandemic.
Can you describe your career and passions before pursuing photography?
I was born a visual artist. Always drawing, I graduated from art school but did not pursue it as a career. I wanted to tell stories so I moved to LA and started making television shows. Some 13 years later, I moved back to NY and turned the camera on myself. I made personal films including A Dog’s Life: A Dogamentary (HBO premiere) and Look At Us Now, Mother, about my journey to forgive my mother,(Netflix premiere, currently on Amazon Prime)
Why photography? What about this medium do you enjoy most?
I was born with an eye for creating images. It’s in my DNA. When I got into photography as a teenager, I would underexpose the prints in the darkroom and then paint on them with Marshall oils. They resembled impressionist paintings.
I needed a creative outlet and turned to my first love, photography.
By the early 80s, I got rid of my dark room and shelved photography for decades. My movie about my mother launched me into becoming a forgiveness coach. I needed a creative outlet and turned to my first love, photography.
I didn’t need to raise money and it was immediate. Soon I was exhibiting in group shows and had my first solo exhibit in Westbeth, an artist complex. I have a second solo show that is up till September, and coming up in November. My photos often look like paintings filled with vibrant colors.
Can you describe your creative process? Any challenging elements to your work?
I’m not rigging or setting up the image. I see still moments that I must capture. I often shoot at sunrise or sunset, as the golden light saturates colors and creates dramatic shadow. I am drawn towards perspective, relationships of shapes, textures, and negative space created by them.
For me, it is very organic and easy. I feel like it is a gift I was given. They say, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” My iPhone brought me back to photography. I’ve exhibited in Barcelona and have earned honorable mentions, in New York, California, and Florida. When my solo exhibit in 2020 closed due to the pandemic, I took it online and started giving virtual walkthroughs. Today, I have several exhibits on my website which also have video walkthroughs. People love when I explain the story behind each photo.
I live to create. I can’t stop myself. It’s my life force and how I breathe. I choose the medium depending on what I want to express.
Can you describe how creativity and art have added to your life?
I live to create. I can’t stop myself. It’s my life force and how I breathe. I choose the medium depending on what I want to express. Currently, I’m finishing a memoir. It’s my first book. Next is a photography book. And then a film.
How has being a Senior Planet participant added to your life or impacted your practice?
I am so thrilled that Senior Planet is available to all. Organizations like Senior Planet are so important to help encourage and empower older people to discover and enjoy their own creativity and explore new outlets. Classes and communities about crafts, photography and other pursuits can really open up satisfying new worlds for all sorts of people.
I embrace age. You get finer with years just like wine. I’m just getting started.
What does “Aging with Attitude” mean to you personally?
One of the pieces I wrote—“Are You Aiming For 100..” —uncovers the best role models for aging. My mother is it for me. She has lived life to the fullest and traveled the world.
You never retire when you are creative.
I embrace age. You get finer with years just like wine. I’m just getting started. I am working on a sequel to my mother’s movie and more books. People often ask “when are you retiring”. You never retire when you are creative. My passions, need to create, and curiosities about the world keep me going at full speed.
Want to explore your creativity? Join Senior Planet Community’s Space for Creatives group and share your work! The Senior Planet Community is an exclusive platform for people 60+. No matter your interest, there’s a community group for you to join. Join the conversation today. If you have any questions or need assistance with anything Senior Planet Community-related, please call the SPC Hotline at 888-479-2606 or email email@example.com.
NaBeela Washington, an emerging Black writer, holds a Master’s in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University and Bachelor’s in Visual Advertising from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has been published in Eater, The Cincinnati Review, and others. Learn more at nabeelawashington.com.
Photos: Courtesy of Gayle Kirschenbaum