German photographer Karsten Thormaehlen clearly gets the big picture. In his latest project, "Happy at 100," he snaps the faces of twelve 100-year-olds, reminding us age really is just a number.
His subjects have lived almost through the entire 20th century, they've survived two world wars, multiple economic crises, and have somehow made it out the other side still smiling.
“The people had a chance to take a deep look into their own future, and they think they better deal with it in a positive way than in a negative way.
Otherwise, they’re going to be depressed today and for the rest of their lives, and that’s very bad," Thormaehlen told the Japan Times.
Although Thormaehlen first felt sorry for centenarians who he thought were "waiting around to die," a turning point came in 2006 when he spotted a photo in a newspaper of a hundred-year-old smiling with a big glass of wine.
Thormaehlen's similar series "Jahrhundertmensch" focuses on the tragedy centenarians have faced and survived.
“A lot of the centenarians have experienced war, or the death of someone close to them. There’s a commonality in all the centenarians I’ve met. Nobody is aggressive. They are friendly, and have wisdom. Some of them have a particular kind of sense of humor. It’s really fun to work with centenarians,” he told the Japan Times.
It inspires Thormaehlen that every other newborn has a hundred years of life in front of them.
His work has been represented in over thirty countries, including Germany, Austria, Russia and Japan.
Thormaehlen has now released two books, even though publishers initially shied away from the subject.