Dementia and Alzheimer’s. People hear those words, and a palpable sense of unease creeps into the conversation. We are living longer, with more and more families dealing with this issue. What’s needed is an open dialogue about this terrible disease so those affected don’t feel so alone.
I started taking an old 1958 Hasselblad and a digital camera into Dad’s high-care dementia ward to connect, hoping old memories would return, filling in the awkward silence, giving life to his forgotten words or the moments he spirals into another world. Along the way, treasured snippets of a long and buried memory have resurfaced; his deadpan way of recounting them makes me smile – long-forgotten naughty escapades I sometimes have to block out. We have our good days and our not-so-good days, but when he says, ‘I love you’ as I am leaving or shows his cheeky grin when I bring his favourite chocolate makes it all worth it.
His world is so small now, just a room with a bed and chair; I’ve wished so many times I could take him home. When you reach that level of care, everything is so institutionalised: the food, the rooms, the loud noises of other residents, the beeping of alarms. It can all be very confronting, but photographing Dad has been a helpful distraction. The await and anticipation of the film development somehow helps me deal with it all. As the disease progresses, there are days I cannot bring myself to photograph him. I walk out feeling so incredibly saddened that I cannot do anything to help him get better.
Dad, Gordon, has always enjoyed me taking photos of him. He is a bit of a muse and used to laugh at that. Dad has never been self-conscious about a camera pointing right at him. He was so comfortable in his skin…till the end.
Love you, Dad. x
Julijana Griffiths is a photographic artist known for her expressive and captivating work. Drawing inspiration from her diverse background and personal experiences, she creates vibrant and thought-provoking pieces that resonate with viewers on an emotional level. Inviting viewers to contemplate and engage with the artwork, each piece tells a story and evokes a range of emotions, sparking a connection between the artwork and the observer.
“My love of light, shadow and colour has added a patina of observations to the person I am today. My photographic works range from landscapes, botanical works and people. ”
Julijana has been a finalist in many local and international photographic competitions and has showcased her artwork in numerous exhibitions.
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