After volunteering to visit the homes of lonely seniors, photographer Kyoto Hamada got the idea to go undercover as an older woman in New York City. With the help of a grey wig, elaborate makeup, and new clothes, Hamada created her elderly alter ego Kikuchiyo-san, who she photographed for 2 years in a series titled I Used To Be You. “I have always been drawn to elders,” explained the photographer to The Huffington Post. “I often sense an otherworldly air from them as though they are still living in another time. These are the kind of elders that I wonder what their life is like, that I want to talk to, or follow them to their home.”
When the 42-year-old walked the streets of NYC as Kikuchiyo-san, she noticed that people treated her differently. Many opened doors for her or offered to help her carry her bags. A Japanese man even bowed to her, which is a cultural sign that shows respect for elders. The biggest difference that Hamada observed was that she often did not matter in the eyes of others. “No one seemed to care, or even notice me. It’s already very easy to feel ignored in New York City, but as Kikuchiyo-san, I sometimes felt totally invisible,” she said.
As her alter ego, the photographer learned that growing older should not matter. “Each stage of our life is a temporary experience,” stated Hamada. “There are different kinds of beauty in different periods of our lives. Beauty in a 5-year-old child, a 25-year-old, a 45- or 75-year-old woman is all different.” With this in mind, Hamada hopes to translate Kikuchiyo-san’s experiences into a 99-page photo book after her Kickstarter campaign reaches its goal of $10,000.