“I want women to step into their power. They can do anything they want to do.”
In 2022, Chappaqua photographer Randi Childs sought to build upon the movement of women embracing the aging process, using her portrait skills to show women that no matter their age, they are beautiful. “Too many women over 40 feel invisible. I want to help change that and make a difference.”
Forty Over 40 (“40/40”) was born.
“I started this project because I wanted to give women an opportunity where they can see themselves through my lens and know that they’re beautiful,” Childs said. “Their age, weight, number of wrinkles, gray hair–none of that determines their self worth, value to society, or their beauty.”
Love of the Art
The mother of two grown daughters, Childs has always been enamored with photography and the ability to document life’s events and create memories. She sought out private lessons from fellow Chappaqua photographer Randy Matusow in 2012 and then “devoured” classes at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan. Never intending to become a professional, she was simply indulging her passion, renting studio space in the city to practice photographing models and playing with lighting and styling “just for me,” she said.
Childs began experimenting with NYC street photography, seeking out interesting buildings, light, billboards, and people, approaching strangers saying she loved their vibe or what they were wearing. One encounter in Times Square was fortuitous; her subject published Turning Point lifestyle magazine, and soon thereafter invited Childs to contribute and eventually photograph Motown legends for a 50th Anniversary celebration issue. Other projects followed, including a Times Square Spotify billboard for a singer/songwriter she works with, and she expanded her repertoire to portraits, personal branding, headshots, maternity and fashion photography. Her international award-winning work has been featured everywhere from People Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar (Vietnam and Arabia editions) to photography publications.
Front Steps Project to Support Town Merchants
Childs opened a studio in Katonah in 2020, just weeks before the pandemic brought everything to a halt. With time on her hands, she offered to take family photographs – safely outdoors on their front steps – asking only that donations be made to help keep New Castle businesses afloat. She eventually partnered with the Chamber of Commerce’s Go Fund Me page to disburse the approximately $10,000 raised by photographing over 100 local families.
Helping Women Recognize Their Beauty
But it is Childs’ passion to photograph 40 women over the age of 40, last year and again in 2023, that has been empowering for both the photographer and her subjects. “It’s cliche,” Childs said, “but beauty really does come from within. This project is all about helping women ‘find their light’ and learn to be comfortable in their own skin.” Her warm and friendly personality sets her subjects at ease while giving them a platform to tell their stories, celebrating the fact that beauty does not diminish with age.
A 40/40 photo session includes a pre-shoot consultation regarding colors, styling and mood, access to her studio’s expansive couture wardrobe, professional hair and makeup, a “celebrity style” photoshoot, and, of course, the photos themselves. Childs prides herself on making her subjects feel relaxed, fully listening to their stories and documenting their feelings about being a woman over 40.
Debra Baron, one of Childs’ first 40/40 subjects, called it an “incredible experience… I felt completely outside my comfort zone, but after five minutes Randi created a comfortable setting and we had so much fun.”
“Women have cried during the sessions or when looking at the finished photos,” Childs recalled, becoming emotional describing a 64-year old woman and her 86-year old mom who experienced the day together, and a former Orthodox woman who themed her photoshoot “taking control of my life.” Ellyn Altman, at 81, one of Childs’ oldest subjects, saw someone in the photos who she had not seen in years.
“I wondered if the woman in every one of the beautiful photos could really be me,” Altman shared. “I thought that appearance was long gone. Randi is an artist; the results of the photo shoot was a wonderful reminder of who I have been and who I am.”
Last year’s 40/40 Project culminated in a gallery exhibition of all 43 portraits at Westport MoCa, which Childs plans to repeat in 2023. She was in awe seeing her subjects react to their own and each other’s photographs on display.
“It’s been transformational for me, watching these women step into their self-love.”