How This Photographer Felt After THAT Photo Went Viral

If you've spent time on the internet in that last few weeks, you've likely stumbled upon this photo. Taken by Arizona-based photographer Jade Beall, it depicts a couple in their 70s, Gerry and Darwin, in a nude and heartfelt embrace. After Beall posted it herself, the responses came in droves. As of writing, Beall's original Facebook post has been shared over 35,000 times and has garnered 2,200 comments. Countless outlets have already praised its unabashed depiction of an aging, interracial couple who, quite clearly, still find each other attractive. As much as the photo tells Gerry and Darwin's personal story, it carries a universal message, too — love isn't just for the young. All too often, popular representations of the elderly would have us believe otherwise. Beall has given us an intimate look at the realities of growing old with someone you love, and we hope the rest of the media is taking notes. This is the kind of representative imagery the world needs to see more often. Below, we spoke with Beall over the phone about the photo's popularity and why she thinks it struck a chord.
What's the story behind this photo?
"Well, [Gerry and Darwin] met in their 50s. They’ve been together over 20 years, and that tickles me. They found love later in their life and they’re as juicy as ever. [During the shoot] they started kissing on my backdrop, and I was like, ‘damn!’ It was so palpable and real and not missing any sensuality. "[The shoot] literally took 15 minutes, which was very surprising. I just knew that we were good."
What happened right after you posted it online?
"It definitely went further than I expected. I’ve had photos go viral before, but this was a different scenario. The biggest difference that I noticed — and it makes me want to cry — is that the overwhelming response online has been so loving and supportive. It’s given me trust in online humanity [laughs]. I was like, 'Wow, we can actually be kind and not have to leave really stupid comments!' It blew me away. Everything I post, it always gets something nasty. That was really telling to me. I was like, 'huh, this could be healing for many.'" What responses have stood out to you?
"The emails and messages I get from people who want to participate [in upcoming projects]... I write them back and I ask, 'Are you really comfortable with this? These could go online and the whole world could see them.' And they’re like, 'Yes! I want to feel good about myself and I want to inspire others.' "And a lot of younger people are so appreciative, which is interesting. I wasn’t expecting that. I knew that elders would enjoy it. But a lot of younger people [have said], 'This makes me feel so hopeful and happy and at peace.' That was lovely to see."
Why is it important to put images like this one out there for people to see?
"Gerry and Darwin...are the catalyst for giving permission for others to feel okay in their bodies, specifically in their community of elders. "For me it was just a question of, 'How can I praise elder bodies so that I can feel more comfortable, so that I can feel inspired and excited?' I need role models for growing older. I’m 37, and my wrinkles are only getting deeper. My whole life, I’ve been told that getting older is a shameful act and that I should at all costs try to hide any evidence of it. I needed to come to terms with my body."

Conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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