Selecting 19 influential baby boomers to represent the most influential generation in history was in Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s words, “a nightmare.” The award-winning photographer and filmmaker said he used a balance of men and women, and a range of professions and diversity, to make his selection.
“I wanted to hit touchstones,” he said.
The 62-year-old visionary behind the critically acclaimed exhibits and documentaries “The Black List,” “The Latino List,” and “The Out List,” was at the Newseum Oct. 1 to discuss his generation and his latest project “The Boomer List,” which will be on display at the Newseum through July 5, 2015. AARP is the exclusive sponsor of “The Boomer List,” which features 19 large-format portraits of baby boomers — one born each year of the baby boom, from 1946 to 1964. This year marks the milestone when the last of the baby boomers turns 50.
Joining Greenfield-Sanders in the exclusive program for members of the Newseum’s Friends of the First Amendment Society and the Corporate Engagement Program were fellow boomers Erin Brockovich, Julieanna Richardson and Kim Cattrall.
“Erin was someone we wanted from the beginning,” Greenfield-Sanders said, because of her environmental activism and iconic name.
That would be straight-talking Brockovich, 54, whose tireless work proving California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s culpability in deadly water contamination resulted in the largest settlement in U.S. history in a direct-action lawsuit. Actress Julia Roberts won an Oscar for best actress portraying Brockovich in the 2000 motion picture bearing her name.
Brockovich’s reaction to her exhibit portrait: “I hate that photo,” she said. “I’m actually very uncomfortable with having my photo taken.”
Brockovich said she has encountered people who believe she is a fictional character. “I go around telling people I’m not Julia Roberts,” she joked. The grandmother of two said being a boomer means she’s much more comfortable with herself.
“I was born a fighter, and I’m going to die a fighter. We’re going to rock 50 and beyond,” she said.
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Richardson, 60, is founder and executive director of Chicago-based “The HistoryMakers,” which preserves the video and oral histories of thousands of prominent African Americans. She said the process of having her portrait taken made her take her own life into account.
“I’ve really been behind the scenes listening to people’s stories for 14 years,” she said. “The time in the studio had me reviewing my life in a way that I haven’t been reviewing [it].” Richardson added that she’s proud to have come of age in the 1960s and felt a responsibility to represent boomers and to “leave something behind.”
Cattrall, 58, and star of the Emmy Award-winning “Sex and the City,” said she thought Greenfield-Sanders’s portrait succeeded in capturing her “authentic self.”
“There is a vulnerability,” she said. “No matter what, it is a version of you. I was comfortable in it.”
Jeffrey Brown, chief correspondent for arts, culture and society for “PBS NewsHour,” moderated the program. He asked the panelists how they were handling aging.
“Only a man would ask that question,” Cattrall quipped, to applause from the audience. “It’s happening, real time. Gravity is taking over. It’s hard to age in society in the public eye.” She added that she cherishes having a platform to inform women.
“The baby boom generation thought they’d be forever young,” Richardson said. “I think some people struggle with that.”
Said Greenfield-Sanders: “I feel like I’m at the top of my game, and that’s kind of a great thing.”