The highs and lows of a decades-long marriage – in photos

The highs and lows of a decades-long marriage – in photos
As she enters the twilight years of her life photographer Aimee McCrory has created a deeply intimate photographic series of her relationship in Rollercoaster: Scenes from a Marriage

Over four decades ago, in the early 1980s, Aimee McCrory was a single mother working long days as a financial manager in Houston, Texas. These would often stretch into the evenings before her attention would turn towards her daughter Erica. Her first marriage had ended not long before, and she was trying to come to terms with personal tragedy that hit her family. As a way of coping she dived headfirst into her career.

“My dad was murdered,” Aimee explains. “It was very unfortunate – I was trying to hold a job and take care of my daughter. I was overwhelmed, but working really hard was something I could channel my energy through to keep me going.”

After wrapping up a deal one day with a man named Ted Preston, she asked if there was anyone that he could refer to her for further business, as was usual policy. Preston obliged, setting up a lunch meeting with a friend named Don. Sitting face-to-face with plates of food in front of them, she tried to sell him insurance.

“I need to see your financial statement,” she began. “I need to see what your income tax return looks like, and then we’ve got to talk about whether you have enough assets to pay state taxes if something happened to you.”

“Listen,” Don replied. “I asked you to lunch because I kind of like you – I’m not interested in any of your products.”

That lunch would turn into a dinner date two weeks later, and as their relationship blossomed Don moved in with Aimee and Erica. The pair married 18 months later, and they have been together ever since. It’s been 43 years since that original lunch meeting, and now with the pair in their 70s, entering the twilight years of their lives – Aimee, who started making pictures around a decade ago, has created a deeply intimate photographic series Rollercoaster: Scenes from a Marriage, which is set to be published as a photobook later this year.

Part of what drove Aimee to make the series came from that passing of time. “[It] began with my growing concerns regarding death, my fear of losing husband Don, and the anxiety of facing life alone,” she says. “I worry about that a lot because he’s such a strong, stable presence in my life. He allows me to be who I am.”

The photographs are an incisive, honest window into Aimee and Don’s married life. From mundane moments in the garden, to moments disagreeing over small matters, and a through-the-curtains peek at their sex life, the pictures snarl with an underlying tension – a volatility familiar to couples across the world. “It reflects pretty much what our marriage has been,” Aimee says. “Good sometimes, not so good at others – I didn’t realise exactly what our relationship [was] until I did this project."

It's perhaps those sexual moments that provide the most clarity. “Don does not look very happy,” she adds. “But both of us come from backgrounds that were not nurturing. We both had childhood trauma, so we’ve always had to work on intimacy. I could see that there wasn’t a lot of intimacy happening and it was cathartic for me – I thought maybe we need to go back to therapy.”

Those shots are also what makes the series so raw. Sex among older folks has long been taboo in Western societies, who are often desexualised or treated as a fringe fetish. They are also often unseen, ignored, or even consciously dismissed – perhaps most obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many lockdown-sceptics pointed out the virus “kills only old people”.

“My reason for doing the project was to bring awareness to the fact that we are alive. We are vibrant. We’re active. We certainly want intimacy with each other,” Aimee says. “We’re not irrelevant, we’re not to be discarded because we’re in our seventies.”

“In this country, older people are considered irrelevant,” she continues. “My real goal is to pull back the curtain – make you feel uncomfortable, because I want to show what it’s really like.”

Rollercoaster: Scenes from a Marriage by Aimee McCrory is set to be published by Kehrer Verlag

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