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The Book Column : Marilyn Minter : Elder Sex


For The Eye of Photography, photographic books are as important as an exhibition or a portfolio. They make the history and the news of the medium. Our correspondent Zoé Isle de Beauchaine takes a tirelessly curious and informed look at the latest releases.

Elder Sex, published by JBE Books, is a voluptuous and shimmering ode to the sexuality of seniors. Part of these images taken by Marilyn Minter originally illustrated a New York Times article by Maggie Jones on the joys (and challenges) of sex after 70.

In this series, both audacious and euphoric, we recognise the photographer’s interest in body details, misty atmospheres and iridescent colours. Under half-fuchsia half-turquoise neon lights, among lace and fishnet, arms are embracing, hands are caressing or grabbing and lips are kissing before letting out an ecstatic cry.

The photographer, who has long worked on the representation of the body and its desires, pointed out that it was not easy to find couples willing to reveal themselves in front of the camera. A few agreed but she also had to cast actors. Most of the people she asked answered that no one would be interested in seeing an ageing body, let alone its sexuality. Even if the taboo is slowly lifting, a lot of shame remains in our society.

As a matter of fact, the bodies embracing under Marilyn Minter’s lens are far from the pervasive stereotypes of our visual culture : underneath the pearl necklaces or suspender belts, we see them sagging and sprinkled with spots. Their skin is wrinkled and thinner. Veins are showing through. But their beauty is magnified by the tenderness and sensuality with which Marilyn Minter depicts them, as well as the joy and pleasure of her models. She insisted on the fact that they are all in their eighties. With such a portrait, she intended to show that « our sexual urges do not disappear”, adding that “most of them, this is the best sex they ever had. »

Accessories are also important protagonists here. They anchor the series in a documentary approach. This is an essential function of this work, to break taboos and highlight existing practices so as to set an example for generations that may not dare to let their desire run wild. Elder Sex is a long-overdue invitation to explore their own sexuality.

Zoé Isle de Beauchaine


Marilyn Minter – Elder Sex
Published by JBE Books, 2023
Photographs by Marilyn Minter
Afterword by Naomi Fry
28 × 36 cm, 88 pages
45 color images
Metallic cloth cover, hot stamping
Graphic design: Agnès Dahan Studio
Release: March 2023
English edition
ISBN: 978-2-36568-071-4
In all good bookstores and online 

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