In this installment of Page 69,
we put Paul Mobley and Allison Milionis'
If I Live to Be 100: The Wisdom of Centenarians to the test.
The words of the photographer, taken from the Afterword, on the inspiration for this project:
This project started as an extension of my previous book, American Farmer. As I traveled around the country meeting farmers, I was surprised to find that quite a few of them were centenarians. I had always thought if someone lived to age 100, it would be bittersweet—yes, they would hit a milestone that most people would never hit, but I pictured those late years as full of sickness and hardship…….. I was completely fascinated by these elders; I found myself wanting to learn all the details of their lives, to find out what inspired them to keep going. At that point, I knew I had found my next project. I would travel to all fifty states and photograph at least one centenarian in each.
In the words of the author, Allison Milionis:
I received a call from the publisher in October 2014, asking if I’d be interested in working on a book project that featured people 100 years and older. The job required interviewing persons photographed by Paul Mobley, and/or their family members, and writing an essay about each one. The idea was that these would not be essays that simply outlined a person’s life in stiff chronological order, but instead, a glimpse of who they are, how they lived their lives, and what wisdom they can share.
After perusing Paul’s website and the book proposal he’d sent to Rizzoli, I accepted. I was taken with Paul’s portraits in his previous book American Farmer. They were so honest, and bold.
And how could I pass up an opportunity to speak with people who are 100 years old? What wisdom would I personally glean from them?
At the beginning of the project, I imagined that Paul’s portraits would reflect the spirit of his subjects, while my essays were meant to be a snapshot of their character.
I think the book accomplishes this, though the process wasn’t easy. Still, I found a way through perseverance, I suppose, which also happened to be a common trait in the individuals I interviewed – and the one that most inspired me. In fact, if I had to name one thing I took away from the experience of working on this book, it would be that perseverance is essential for survival, to thrive in life, and to get books done.
If I Live to Be 100: The Wisdom of Centenarians
Washington Court House, Ohio
Born July 3, 1908
Alvin Sexten was a third generation farmer in Fayette County, Ohio. His family grew a number of crops and raised beef cattle, but also kept chickens and dairy cows. As a young man, he’d farmed with a team of horses. By the end of his farming days, he owned self-driving tractors. Alvin rolled with the changes of the times; he embraced new technology or anything that improved his efficiency.
Hard work was Alvin’s modus operandi and he attributed it to his long life. He was still hauling grain to the elevator at ninety-eight. “Never stop to think about dying,” Alvin liked to say. “There’s no time for that.”
Paul Mobley is an American photographer who captures the true essence of the nature of a person's soul. From remote Alaskan villages to the majestic palaces of Croatia, Mobley travels around the world to find the face of a thousand words. He lives in New York and Arizona with his wife Suzanne and their two wonderful daughters, Camden and Paige.
Allison Milionis is a journalist who writes about wild and domestic animals and the people who advocate on their behalf. Her articles have appeared in The Oregonian, The Sentinel, and Los Angeles Citybeat, among others.