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The Takeaway: Love, Joy and Alzheimer’s On Display in New Portraits

Posted By Elizabeth Nolan Brown On April 26, 2012 @ 8:57 am In Bulletin Today | No Comments

Too many pictures of Alzheimer’s patients present dim nursing home hallways or grim hospital corridors, lives of isolation and unwitting apathy. Cathy Greenblat aims to show another, brighter side of the disease, in her new book, Love, Loss and Laughter: Seeing Alzheimer’s Differently, and accompanying photo exhibition in New York. Greenblat-a professor emerita of sociology at Rutgers who has launched an “encore career” as a photographer-shows how people with Alzheimer’s and dementia can still “be engaged, lead active lives and experience love and joy,” according to the New York Times.

I wanted to show what many people don’t know about Alzheimer’s,” Greenblat said, “that there are ways we can take care of people that build on their remaining capacities instead of just protecting them from danger.”

Both of Greenblat’s maternal grandparents had Alzheimer’s, as did her mother. “These photos are meant to challenge the way we think about Alzheimer’s,” said Greenblat, whose project-featuring patients from around the world (India, France, Japan, Ohio)-was inspired in part by personal experience.

The project reminds me of this project from photographer Gregg Segal, which combines portraits of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia with projected photos of their younger selves. The images are haunting but often strangely joyful, too. “Together, the images comprise a tribute to memory,” Segal said.  

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Photo: Cathy Greenblat


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