BY LINDSEY CHOO
Mark Snyder at the Larger than Life exhibit in the Building Bridges Gallery in Santa Monica, CA., next to a portrait of himself by artist Zhenya Gershman. Photo credit: Eric Minh Swenson
Mark Snyder was in his 50s when he decided to embark on a journey that would change the course of his life as he knew it. He decided to enter one of the most competitive industries one could imagine - the modeling industry.
Residing in Los Angeles, CA, Snyder felt like the city was "model central", with art schools, animation studios and private artists already having plenty of models to pick from. However, his talent soon attracted many artists and art institutions.
Now at the age of 71, Snyder has modeled for thousands of artists, including those hailing from Walt Disney and DreamWorks Studios, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Art Center College of Design and private artist studios. His most notable works include a decade-long collaboration with internationally renowned artist Zhenya Gershman. Their collaboration was also documented in a short film by Emmy-winning director Jake Gorst entitled "The Model's Artist".
"It's been a continuing source of confirmation, validation, joy and adventure, building continuity with someone that is the person that I probably most admire in this world," Snyder said. "She is only getting more renowned, and she continues to let anyone and everyone know that I've been critical to her success."
At the screening of the short film at the Los Angeles LGBT Center on Apr. 11 2015, Snyder was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the City of Los Angeles for his contributions to the arts in the city. When asked about why he described himself as feeling like "60 going on 30" in his award acceptance speech, Snyder noted that he developed a love for his body and emphasized that any time spent on caring for the body was time well spent.
"If anything should be a priority, taking care of your body ought to be it," Snyder said. "What have we got if we haven't got our body? So much is about worshipping the intellect or the mind, but where is the mind without the body?"
Snyder also had a positive attitude towards aging, as an artist's model in the modeling industry. He remarked that he had not faced ageism or discrimination based on his age in his line of work.
"That's the beauty of the art world," Snyder said. "They don't care what you look like, they don't care about your gender, your age, what they care about is that you offer what they want and what they need. What they need is diversity. They need their models to reflect the spectrum of humanity."
He credits his youthful demeanor to self-care for his body, mainly in the form of aquatic therapy sessions, a form of treatment and exercise performed in a body of water for therapeutic benefits. He has performed thousands of aquatic therapy sessions over the years and said he will continue to do so.
Snyder defines successful aging as a continuing process of self-love and self-care for the body starting from an early age.
"The body is the one place where all of humanity can unite behind a common reality, which is the desire to remain healthy and happy for as long as possible," Snyder said. "For me, that is healthy aging, that is what it's all about."
Lindsey Choo is a student at UC San Diego. She is a student writer for the Successful Agers in Action series, and senior staff writer at The UCSD Guardian where she focuses on politics, science and technology. Hailing from Singapore, you can often find her connecting with people all over the globe.