This week we worked on an assignment displaying human interaction for Fundamentals. After being disappointed in myself with last week's work, I stepped up my game and planned ahead to get something I could be really proud of. I called a few local nursing homes and assisted living centers, hoping one of them would let me in. A woman named Kelly at Candlelight Lodge here in Columbia was very generous to me and let me come to the facilities to photograph the residents. When I walked in, I was pretty terrified. It was like a death trap. There were 10-15 elderly people sitting on the couches in the front lounge and all of them were either completely zoned out or asleep. I immediately feared that I wouldn't be able to capture interaction because these people couldn't interact. However, when Kelly came to meet me, she let me know that there was more going on in a different ward of the facility - the Alzheimer's wing.
She said "most people don't tend to cover this because it's still taboo, but I think you will get some good photos" as she led me to the room. She had me introduce myself to all of the residents and they were happy and willing to let me photograph them. It was a relief that these subjects could respond and develop a relationship with me. I thought maybe she had just talked about taking pictures of people with dementia, but actually directed me to a room of normal elderly people. As the hour went on, it was more and more clear that these unfortunate people were not actually as aware as I perceived them originally. For an activity, they were instructed to toss a beach ball back and forth. One of the most energetic of the group, Geneva, joked that she wasn't going to throw the ball, but was going to keep it instead. This made me think that she was not as far into Alzheimer's as her friends - but she made this same joke every time the ball was passed to her. Later, the nurse passed out baby dolls for the women to hold. It was extraordinary how one woman in particular responded. Leta began describing everything appealing about the doll and how it reminded her of a real child. She spoke to it as a grandmother would speak to a grandchild and held it carefully in a motherly position. She seemed comforted by the doll and enjoyed talking about her real grandchildren.
Overall, I am very pleased with the images and I hope to go back and shoot more another day. More importantly, the experience made me value the wonderful health of both my parents and grandparents. These patients were obviously well taken care of, but I can't imagine the loneliness and confinement they must feel.