Mumbai is a city filled with culture and tons of color. It also is filled with millions of people in a huge range of economic and social levels. ARDSI is an incredible organization that has quite a few chapters and is supported mostly through private donations but also gets help from the government. Since Mumbai is a metropolitan city, there are facilities throughout the city. In the slums patients are often taken care of at home. There are a lot of challenges for people living in these areas and typically, as I learned, there is stigma along with Dementia and many people don’t seek medical help for their loved ones.
After traveling to London to present my proposed project to Alzheimer's Disease International I was contacted by their network in 2017 to travel to India to photograph patients. At this point I didn't really have a strong direction with my project, and while in India I discovered it's purpose. Working with ARDSI Mumbai, a chapter of a large organization that supports Dementia in India, I photographed in Mumbai. While I was there I saw the start of an adult day care center, photographed in innovative facilities, and was able to photograph in a home of a patient living in a slum. I discovered the purpose of my project is to share the story of people living with Dementia in the hardest circumstances because anywhere on this planet where this is wealth, people are treated well. The stories of people overcoming stigma, natural disasters, extreme poverty, war, and refugee crisis is what I need to focus on so these stories are brought to the surface so the global community takes this disease seriously.
I began with photographing at the day care that the incredible Vidya who was my guide, started pretty much on her own. We then ventured out of the city to photograph at a rural center housing almost a hundred elderly at various degrees of Dementia. From there we went to a eco-facility that housed only Dementia patients called the Silveramour that was simply incredible. We then traveled to a Parsi Home for all Persian patients that was in the heart of the city. Thats when I heard the stories about the horrible stigma of Dementia in India where family essentially hide their loved ones with Dementia out of fear of being social outcasted by their neighbors. To end the trip, I traveled into a slum and was able to go into the home of a patient and photograph her and her family. It absolutely blew my mind that she had not been outside of their single room home in months.
Just one photo.
When I went into the slum to take a photograph, I really didn’t entirely understand what I was getting myself into. Photographing this family was really difficult, and it was absolutely a time in my career that I had to focus on what was in front of me and not how it made me feel. The family had every indication how they were treating her was in her best interest. Stigma absolutely is something that can change. The family was super uncomfortable with me being there. I sat directly across from her and took this one photo. It was one of the most eye opening experiences I’ve had on this journey.