Barnsley photographer explores dementia in new exhibition of intimate portraits

Adrian Ashworth and dad Alan
Adrian Ashworth and dad Alan

Barnsley photographer Adrian Ashworth is probably most well-known for his images of Yorkshire and the Peak District.

He has also previously been a professional photographer for Barnsley Metropolitan Council, covering official engagements and live music events. However, Adrian’s focus suddenly changed two years ago when his father was diagnosed with Dementia.

Adrian explains: “Throughout my life, my dad Alan was by far the smartest man I have ever known. He was a whizz with maths and never failed to amaze me. Dad used his brilliant mind all through his working life eventually retiring as a Senior Lecturer in business studies from Richmond College Sheffield aged only 55. He is now is now 84 years old and living in a retirement home where people care and protect him. Rewind two years and dad was my accountant. I am no expert in Dementia but knowing my dad and how fastidious he was with being right in numeracy, I realised there was something wrong. I made several appointments with the doctors for dad to see someone only for him to deny any problems and not attend, he still denies to this day that he has any memory issues other than those associated with “I’m 84 you know”.”

Adrian carries on: ‘Somewhere In Time is a way of doing something special for those living with dementia, their partners and loved ones –to relive a moment or something unique about their past and share their stories. It will also hopefully help raise awareness of what these families so often go through together.”

Discovering the work of BIADS (Barnsley Independent Alzheimer’s And Dementia Support) and meeting their staff, enabled Adrian to discuss his idea of documenting the stories of those living with Dementia and BIADS helped to put his idea out to the families they worked with. Many took up the offer of sitting for a portrait and sharing their stories. One of the first was Gareth.

“When Gareth was younger, he was an aspiring actor. After leaving university, he appeared in several short films and even acted alongside stars as Matthew Modine, Vanessa Redgrave, Daryl Hannah, Jon Voight and Sir Richard Attenborough.

“In 2010 Gareth started showing recognizable signs of Dementia and in 2011, he moved back in with his mum and dad in Goldthorpe as home life was becoming unbearable for his partner and her children. Gareth was just 36 when he was diagnosed with Dementia. He is 40 now and resides at a specialist care home. Gareth’s story became national news and in many respects it has brought this family closer together. His parent talk openly about their experiences, they are a fountain of knowledge on the subject of dementia and speak frequently at meetings, TV and support clinics.”

The images in the exhibition are all black and white and lay bare the soul of the person living with dementia and the carer. It isn’t always easy to always know who in the portrait has dementia. Some are fairly straight forward due to age gaps but this isn’t always the case and some are impossible to tell. Each image or group of images has a story to tell and as Adrian explains: “The title of the exhibition, ‘somewhere in time’ is where their world stopped, be it a child dying or the moment their partner forgot their name. The images are a way to remind us all how frail our existence is and that far more importantly to just viewing the images with a thought of who has dementia we should be seeing the one things that remains is all of these people’s lives is LOVE.”

Some of the portraits will make you laugh, in others you’ll share their pain; all real people sharing real stories from our community, coping to their best with such a debilitating condition that cannot be undone.

Adrian Ashworth: Somewhere In Time opens on the Panorama@ The Civic on 22 April and closes 3 June 2017. Admission is free.

For more information and to book visit www.barnsleycivic.co.uk or call the Box Office on 01226 327000.

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