Documentary Photography – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s & My Grandparents

Image Taken late June 2015 at my Grandparents house in Cookham, England. To help with my Grandmother’s memory loss, and my grandfather’s problems with moving around, the family decided to get a dog for them, to help focus their minds. In the image, both of them are playing together with the dog, not thinking on how ill they are, and just the warmth they have together

 

Documentary Photographer Thomas Maxwell is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography.  From his project ‘Faded‘. To see Thomas’ projects click on any image.

“Project is still on-going, images displayed on this page may not be final images, but rather act as a demonstration of where the project is heading”

Faded‘ is a documentary piece focused around the life of my grandfather and my grandmother. Both have played a big part in my life, being their first grandchild, they were there since day one, I always remembered the first time my grandfather took me out to an air-show, to see all the warplanes, or my grandmothers Chocolate chip muffins, which are to die for.

 

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My Grandfather loves his planes, being a former soldier and briefly stationed in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s, you can gain a feeling as to why my grandfather has always been the lively family member, up for almost anything. My Grandmother the same, she loves to cook, the best cook in the house, always making some illusive dessert, and an avid tennis fan, especially Wimbledon, which is on their telly 24/7 in the time its covered in the year.

 

 Image taken Early June 2015, at my Grandparents house in Cookham, England. My Grandmother (pictured) tries to find mail that she found less than an hour before

Image taken Early June 2015, at my Grandparents house in Cookham, England. My Grandmother (pictured) tries to find mail that she found less than an hour before.

 

But as you get older, and wiser, you start to realize the reality of everything around you. My Grandfather has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease, having been diagnosed with the disease roughly 2 years ago, after problems walking and the shakes. My Grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s around the same time, you’d think the odd ‘where’s my glasses?’, whilst she was wearing them was quite amusing, but as the questions became more frequent, sometimes more than five times a day, the seriousness of the situation came to light. The comedy in the questions faded and all that’s left is reality, that my Grandmother has Alzheimer’s and coming to terms with the thought she will most likely not recognize my face before the end.

 

Dining room

Dining room

 

The statistics for the United Kingdom Speak for it, one in every 500 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, which calculates to roughly 120,000 people in the UK. Despite being known for a more elderly based disease, it also happens in young people as well. The statistics for Alzheimer’s and Dementia is equally as disturbing, in which estimates have calculated that by 2015, there will be around 850,000 people in the UK, who are affected by Alzheimer’s, in which two/thirds are female.

 

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This documentary project, as well as documenting these diseases, also aims to question traditional photographs, and why techniques within photography cannot be used to display emotion within the image, combining this with the concept of hiding the meaning within the photograph, to allow the viewer time to understand and to take in every photograph. And so I used different photographic techniques to show these diseases within the photograph. For example, when it comes to my Grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, I used exposure and focus to show the lack of memory for my grandmother, through her eyes and the world she might see, to give some understanding of what it’s like from that direct perspective, for me the grandchild/photographer, but also for the viewer. With my Grandfather’s Parkinson’s on the other hand, I decided to go with shutter speed. One of the key factors of the Parkinson’s disease is lack of movement and response. So the shutter speed of the photograph is dependent on the situation of my grandfather on that given day. So, in the early stages of the disease, the shutter speeds would be slow, but still show focus and composition, however over time, as the disease starts to progress throughout the brain, the shutter speed would progressively get slower, to the point where the photograph doesn’t become a photograph anymore, because the shutter speed is so slow. Similar to the use of focus and exposure for Alzheimer’s, the shutter speed aims to give a visual understanding of how serious Parkinson’s is as a disease, and shows the development the disease has on the person, in this case my own Grandfather.

 

 Image taken July 2015, at my Grandparents house in Cookham, England. The people in the pictures are my siblings and cousins, with the clock symbolising the time ticking for my grandparents, as the diseases they suffer with are progressive with age, and shows the start of the loss of memory with family members

Image taken July 2015, at my Grandparents house in Cookham, England. The people in the pictures are my siblings and cousins, with the clock symbolizing the time ticking for my grandparents, as the diseases they suffer with are progressive with age, and shows the start of the loss of memory with family members

 

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The one thing that the viewer is reminded of throughout the photographs, is that I am documenting my own Grandparents. Despite the Diseases that both my Grandparents face, I don’t aim to visualize them as ‘patients’, but Family I have grown up with, come to love. This project is my own Therapy, as even though I am the Photographer, above anything I am their eldest Grandchild. Even though this Project aims to show these diseases in a new light, through a new perspective by questioning use of traditional photographic techniques in the images, it also brings into context the use of Photography as a Therapy for many. This Project is my reality.

 

@copyright Tom Maxwell Photography, Information and facts on Alzheimer’s collated from the Alzheimer’s Association website: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp#quickFacts

Information and facts on Parkinson’s disease can be found at:

http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/content/facts-journalists

 

 

See also:

London

By Thomas Maxwell

 


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