the Anatomy of a disease (2022)
Every day, our immune system defends us from microorganisms that threaten to harm us. Progressive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, however, are difficult to detect and develop slowly over time. Sometimes, it can be a fight against yourself. Sometimes, the cut cannot be fixed.
The summer of 2017, my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. This was a big change that no one had seen coming, and in a matter of weeks, everything changed. We went from being taken care of by her to coming together as a family to care for her throughout the day, from ensuring she got her necessary supplements and nutritional requirements to wearing masks around her and being careful not to threaten her immunocompromised status.
What I hope comes through about this collection is how raw it is. We often get so swept away in routine and deadlines and large events, but there is beauty in the everyday, in the (little) time you get to spend with your loved ones. It’s a reflection on disease and how it affects a person — a family, even — and the ways families can be there for one another through shared hardships.
The challenge of the process was exactly that: turning things that could very well be facets of everyday life into mini narratives. I wanted to use photography for that element of reality and that idea that each photo was a “scene” anyone can look at and apply onto their own lives. Thus, at every step of my photographing process, I asked myself: yes, this frame depicts my grandmother in her wheelchair, but what is it that I notice? How is she feeling at this moment? How are we feeling at this moment? Why is this moment so special? Furthermore, as one might expect when working in a single space and with a single (main) subject for all these photos, I faced a challenge in making each photo unique. So with that I tried to show different sides of my grandmother and different parts of our lives, such as in a birthday celebration or before an afternoon nap. The photos are largely unedited to maintain their “raw” quality, and the colors are slightly desaturated and graded to be more red and yellow — this all serves to create an eerie feeling of vulnerability and fragility,
My grandmother is the most beautiful person I know. Her hair, formerly permed and dyed jet black, resembled that of traditional Japanese enka singers; her fingernails, painted a light shade of mauve, were what helped her — in her own words — “stay young;” her wrinkles, etched deep into her cheeks, indicated a life well-lived. I still see her as that same woman in these pictures, despite her now being miles (in every sense of the word) away. Sometimes the cut cannot be fixed, but in sharing these last moments with her, I reckon with the reality of disease and what it truly means to care for my loved ones.
Awarded Gold Key (portfolio) in 2023 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
Awarded National Silver Medal Award (portfolio) in 2023 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards