Photographing Besse Cooper: Now the World’s Oldest Living Person

Besse Cooper by Paul Mobley

Besse Cooper, world's oldest living person

Last week, I traveled to Georgia where I met Besse Cooper. As it turns out, Besse now holds the title for world’s oldest living person (she’s 114… she’ll be 115 in August) and in case you hadn’t guessed it by now, I was there to shoot her portrait. Sometimes I wonder what people of this age must think of all this attention they get for leading healthy productive lives to the extent that they live longer? Maybe it’s stressful or a bit unusual but I guess most accept it. At any rate, none of these things seemed to concern Besse the day we met for our shoot.

When I photograph subjects like Besse, I always try to consider what kind of story their faces will tell. You can learn a lot about a person by looking closely at them. Everything from the way their eyes peer out at the world, to the arch of their brow, right down to the way their smile lights up. Each of these things hold a certain level of meaning. For our shoot, I decided to try a number of different poses but the one I liked the best (seen above) captivates me because her profile emphasizes something very bold about her character. As for Besse, she lives each day fiercely independent of others, preferring to take care of herself the way she always has.

I felt lucky to be invited into Besse’s home to make this image (and many more). Her attitude for this shoot seemed as resilient as her outlook on life. We should all be so lucky to share a similar view… no matter how old we are. Most of all, a special thank-you goes out to Besse’s grandson Paul for all his assistance during our time together. Thank you both!

— PM