The Photobook Project
Over the last few years I have been delivering The Photobook Project to groups of people living with dementia and their carers across the globe. This project was created as part of my MA Illustration: Authorial Practice at Falmouth University 2014-16 when I first worked with the Happy Wanderers, a dementia-friendly walking group set up by Sensory Trust titled 'Observations by the Happy Wanderers'.
The project invites participants to document their shared experiences under their chosen themes. For example, the Happy Wanderers chose 'shadows', 'picnic' & 'green'.
Since then, I have delivered the project to 7 groups, including Run Tomo Japan, Humanitas Deventer in the Netherlands & 5 dementia-friendly nature groups at Sensory Trust.
How does it work?
The group are provided with single-use cameras which represent each theme & participants are invited to document their experiences. This task creates a shared topic of conversation, a form of cognitive stimulation & a way of them becoming the illustrators of their own experiences. I then put these images into a book template, in the order they were taken, so to preserve the narrative of their experiences. I also provide art workshops which are led by the interests & skills of the people living with dementia themselves, empowering them to revisit & invest time in what they would like to. For example, one participant had a particular interest in science so we co-delivered a cyanotype workshops, using the sun to create images. The work created from these workshops is put into smaller, A6 sized books at the centre of the photobooks, providing different perspectives on the themes.
Since The Photobook Project is shaped by the participants, it can be the first spark of hope & memory that leads them to build on their interests further. It also provides them with a collection of books which can be revisited at any time & provide individuals with self-evidence of living well with their dementia. I strongly believe that if this is put in place early on in their diagnosis, it can provide an essential evidence to them that things ARE still possible; that they can still communicate about their experiences in a format that suits them & that they can still form new connections (feelings that can be hard to come-by on receiving a diagnosis of dementia).
This funding will allow me to:
- Host an exhibition of all books created as part of The Photobook Project, involving participants from previous projects in the curation & execution, building their self-confidence & skill set. This will include commissioning artist Emily Juniper to create bespoke boxes for all collections.
- Document the books by paying for a professional photographer & website designer to display this online archive in an accessible, creative format, empowering the participants as artists who's work is worth celebrating & framing professionally.
Impact of your support
The exhibition and online book archive will significantly increase the number of people who are able to view & access these books. It will enable me to exhibit the books as a collection, inviting people from far & wide to delve in & see life through the lens of a person with dementia, showing that it is possible to live well with a diagnosis. By creating an online shop, this will allow for an income stream which will be used to fund future groups to take part in The Photobook Project.
'Pink Ladies' from Sound at Gossmoor by the Happy Wanderers:
Image from Signs of Spring at Lostwithiel by the Happy Wanderers:
A selection of books from "Hello Neighbour!", by residents at Humanitas Deventer:
Image from "Pass the Baton!" by Run Tomo participants: