A striking photographic exhibition entitled “I Am Still Me” is currently being staged at Ripon Cathedral as part of Dementia Awareness Week.
The portraits are the work of photographer Helen Williams, and seek to highlight the sitter’s identity, rather than their dementia.
Helen invited each person to write who they were on their images – giving them a voice and an opportunity to share their thoughts. She spent nine months getting to know her subjects before picking up a camera.
She explained: “When I did this project I wanted them to just be people – because that’s all they are – it’s just that they’ve got memory issues – that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a conversation with them! The reason I asked them to write on their photograph was because my portrait of them was my narrative but that’s still very singular and I wanted to give them their voice back.”
The exhibition, already featured on ITV, is set to travel the country raising awareness and changing perspectives as it goes.
In Yorkshire and Humberside alone there are some 60,000 people suffering from dementia. Three thousand of those live in the Harrogate District.
Ripon based charity Dementia Forward’s Jill Quinn said: “There is still a stigma attached to dementia and the whole idea of the photographs is to show that the real person is still there. The mission of our charity is to support people to live well with their dementia and not be isolated by it.”
Ripon Cathedral is dementia friendly with staff and volunteers trained to recognise and support those with the disease.
Opening the exhibition the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson said: “Dementia is a challenge for many individuals and families within this region. The delightful thing about Helen’s wonderful photographs is that they help us to see beyond the dementia to the person and worth of the individual. As Christians it reminds us that every person is loved and valued by God.”
Dementia Awareness week in Ripon also includes a special service at the cathedral at 5.30pm on Sunday May 21 highlighting the problems faced by sufferers and their carers.
The service looking at the impact of dementia, is one of a series of informal café style events which take place at Ripon Cathedral on the third Sunday of every month.