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Capturing dementia



Above: Doreen Pearl Whitford of Clifton Springs in Victoria has been photographed by American photographer and sociologist Cathy Greenblatt as part of the international ‘Love, Loss & Laughter’ exhibition. Pearl is in her 80s and is cared for at home by her son Barry and daughter in law Pat. In their home there are four generations. Pearl enjoys participating in music therapy, as can be seen in the picture.

The internationally acclaimed photographic exhibition, Love, Loss and Laughter: Seeing Dementia Differently, was formally launched by Alzheimer’s Australia National President and 2013 Australian of the Year, Ita Buttrose, at Federation Square in Melbourne last week.

The photos in the exhibition are taken in eight countries, including Australia, and have already toured in the USA, England, Scotland, Canada and Spain. The Australian tour, which takes in all six states and the ACT, is the biggest national tour of the exhibition to date.

The more than 85 photos in the exhibition were taken by American sociologist and social photographer, Cathy Greenblat, between 2004 and 2011, in the United States, France, India, Japan, the Dominican Republic, Canada, Monaco, and more recently, in Australia. 

According to the exhibition’s promotional material, it aims to offer “a new vision of dementia and care, challenging the view that people with age-related cognitive conditions are “lost”, “empty shells”, “no longer here”. By illustrating the stories of those who are living with dementia through images, the exhibition conveys that life goes on after a diagnosis of dementia and that people with dementia continue to have needs around social interaction and engagement in much the same way as anyone else.”

People first

Above: One of the images from the permanent exhibition, taken in India.

Launching the exhibition, Ms Buttrose said that the exhibition helps spread the message that people with dementia remain, first and foremost, human beings and should not be defined by their condition.

“Cathy captures the universality of the condition and the powerful emotions it creates,” Ms Buttrose said.

“This exhibition acknowledges dementia as a condition that people live with, not something that should isolate them from the everyday activities that we all enjoy.”

Artist Cathy Greenblat (picured above), said she takes great pride in spending time with the people she photographs so that she can understand their character, level of progression of dementia and get the photographs that most accurately portray this.

“The person that is your mother, your wife, your brother or somebody, is still there. They just may not be able to show us that in the same way,” Ms Greenblat explained.

“They may not later remember the details of an activity but through their mood and behaviour we can often observe that they are aware that they have had a joyous experience. I like to teach this through my photos.”

Cathy Greenblat spent three weeks in Australia earlier this year meeting and photographing Australians living with dementia. These photographs have now been added to the exhibition.

In the build-up to the exhibition launch, members of the general public impacted by dementia have been invited to submit their own personal photographs. A selection submitted by Victorians that capture the experience of living with dementia are displayed alongside the exhibition photos at the Federation Square.

Addressing stigma

“We hope to combat the stigma attached to a diagnosis of dementia by asking Victorians of all ages to get involved with this exhibition which brilliantly conveys the message that life doesn’t stop with a dementia diagnosis,” said Alzheimer’s Australia CEO, Glenn Rees.

“The photographs illustrate that people with dementia continue to have needs around social interaction and engagement in much the same way as everybody else.”

The exhibition has been made possible by the generous sponsorship of Eli Lily and Nutricia.

Following the month at Federation Square, the exhibition will tour Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and finally to Sydney in November [see details below].  The exhibition began in Hobart in May, to coincide with the Alzheimer’s Australia National Conference.

The public can view this exhibition for free right now at The Yarra Building, Federation Square in Melbourne between 6 and 27 June, Tuesday to Sunday between 10am and 4pm.

Exhibition dates:

MELBOURNE, VIC
6 Jun – 27 Jun
The Yarra Building, Federation Square
Open hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm
Deadline for personal photo submissions: 30 Jun (Extended)
Official opening: 6 June, 5pm – 7.30pm

CANBERRA, ACT
16 Jul – 26 Jul
Legislative Assembly
Open hours: Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm
Deadline for personal photo submissions: 13 Jul
Official opening: 16 Jul, 6pm – 8pm

PERTH, WA
8 Aug – 27 Aug
City of Vincent Library
Open hours: Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm
Deadline for personal photo submissions: 5 Aug
Official opening: 8 Aug

ADELAIDE, SA
5 Sept – 17 Sept
Burnside City Council Atrium
Open hours: Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm
Deadline for personal photo submissions: 2 Sept
Official opening: 5 Sept

BRISBANE, QLD
3 Oct – 11 Oct
Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Arts
Open hours: Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm
Deadline for personal photo submissions: 30 Sept
Official opening: 3 Oct

SYDNEY, NSW
7 Nov – 27 Nov
Parliament House
Open hours: Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm
Deadline for personal photo submissions: 4 Nov
Official opening: 7 Nov

For more information visit: exhibition.fightdementia.org.au



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