Portrait Gallery as a Process and Awareness Support
The object of this photographic researche project was to examine to what degree a process-based photographing of senile elderly could improve their self-awareness and capacity for presence. The project’s main hypothesis is that we are all interested in ourselves, even those who suffer from senile dementia. One can say that being seen opens the opportunity to see yourself.
Having continually seen freshly taken portraits of themselves on a computer screen the senile individuals’ self-awareness improved and they were enticed to participate actively in the photographic process. Their brains were stimulated and they grew while participating, often with results that amazed me. For example John who appeared to lack language entirely and only produced formless sounds. When he saw the final portrait of himself he suddenly said in a clear voice: “ This is me and it’s quite good!"
All portrayed suffer from severe dementia and live within dementia institutions. When I first met them, they were all in the same state as John as you see him in the opening photo of the series
Color boundaries on the sides of the portrait in addition to framing the face also mark that these people live in a different world and look at us and we at them as through a window.
I devoted myself to the project for several years. I collaborated in evaluation of the results with professor of psychology at Stockholm University Ove Almkvist, specialist in psychiatry and geriatrics at Huddinge University Hospital Yvonne Freund-Levi and art and design critic Dennis Dahlqvist. The project was funded by the Swedish Arts Grants Committee and by the Art organization Konstfrämjandet .