New York Woman Says Disguise Taught Her What It Feels Like to Be Elderly

PHOTO: Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called "I used to be you."Kyoko Hamada
Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called "I used to be you."

A photographer who dressed up as an elderly woman for a photo project found people would ignore her while she was in her costume.

"I think you are ignored and invisible," photographer Kyoko Hamada told ABC News.

PHOTO: Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called I used to be you. Kyoko Hamada
Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called "I used to be you."

"I mean, a group of girls who are into fashion or something, [an elderly woman] is not even something to look at. It's just, 'Oh, that's an old person,'" she said.

Hamada, who lives in New York and is actually 42 years old, spent nearly two years completing the project, which found her wearing a grey wig and prosthetic make-up to look like the character she created, named Kikuchiyo-san.

PHOTO: Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called I used to be you. Kyoko Hamada
Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called "I used to be you."

"I just kind of wanted to have a unisex name and just an old name," Hamada told ABC News. "There was a Japanese female comedian, Kikuchiyo, and then I put the dash and 'san' you put that after somebody's name as a sign of respect."

She came up with the idea after volunteering with a group that went on home visits to seniors in an effort to keep them company. When she suggested she take pictures of some of the seniors, they all reportedly refused, telling her that, "they're just too old to be photographed, whatever that means," Hamada said.

PHOTO: Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called I used to be you. Kyoko Hamada
Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called "I used to be you."

Instead, she took matters into her own hands and launched her project, titled "I Used to Be You," and she has now launched a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to turn the project into a photo book.

When staging the shoots in her apartment or in places where she was alone, Hamada would use a photo timer. But when she chose public shoot sites in busy places, she had a friend take the shots.

PHOTO: Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called I used to be you. Kyoko Hamada
Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called "I used to be you."

Hamada, who was born in Japan but moved to the U.S. when she was 15 and has lived in New York for more than 15 years, said that the nature of the city had an impact on her project.

"I was very self-conscious, of course, because when you dress up in a disguise and it's not Halloween you are definitely doing something that is rather strange," she said, noting that she had "kind of weird anxiety that was not necessary really in New York because no one really cares what you do."

She said it was hard to determine the extent to which she was being "ignored" because of the costume or ignored simply because everyone is in New York.

"In some way, I think you are left alone -- but again, it's kind of hard to say because if you're riding the subway, you're always left alone," she said.

PHOTO: Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called I used to be you. Kyoko Hamada
Photographer Kyoko Hamada dresses as a character that she calls Kikuchiyo-san for her photo series called "I used to be you."
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