Kyoko Hamada is a 42-year-old photographer who lives in New York with her husband and two-year-old son. Kikuchiyo-san is an elderly woman who lives alone. She likes nice weather, going for walks, and stopping to smell the flowers. Technically, the two women have never met. Spiritually, they're two souls in the same body. Such is the intended essence of I Used To Be You, Hamada's two-year photography project inspired by her own interactions with senior citizens.
Kikuchiyo-san's life is Hamada's art. Though Hamada doesn't document her transformation into Kikuchiyo-san, she accomplishes it with a wig, latex makeup, and clothing stuffing — and then captures herself on camera.
"Aging is a mystery to me. I haven’t truly experienced losing your friends, or health issues," Hamada tells Refinery29. "This whole project made me confront the life that I have right now...[But] it would be a lie if I said I don't have a fear of aging. I think I do. Maybe even more than anybody else. Maybe that’s why I ended up doing something like this."
Ahead, see 15 of Hamada's haunting photos that remind us to take a moment to reflect on the beauty of life — at every age.