Sofie Mathiassen’s grandparents — Poul and Else — always kept a journal, jotting down in a sentence or two — sometimes more — the small joys of each of their days together. Eight years ago, Poul was diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and, for the past four years, their granddaughter has been photographing their daily lives in Denmark, creating a record of Poul’s last moments on earth.
The work has won the Bob and Diane Fund grant, a cash prize dedicated to raising awareness through photography of the medical crisis around Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“I have always been very close with my grandparents and spent a lot of time with them throughout my childhood,” Mathiassen said. “So, when my grandfather began to get sicker I started photographing him. I wanted to keep him as I knew him, and I could see him fading away from me and from my grandmother and the rest of the family.”
Mathiassen’s photos show the bond between Poul and Else as one’s dementia becomes overwhelming and the other works to hold onto what’s slowly disappearing.
“Their story is just one example of what many families are going through,” Mathiassen said. “I hope that people see the love before they see the disease.”
“Photographing your family takes a certain risk and vulnerability,” said Getty Images photographer Chip Somodevilla, one of this year’s judges. “And Sofie has shared her world with us in an intimate and beautiful way. Denmark may have a sophisticated welfare system — but dementia still has the same impact.”
Mathiassen will receive $5,000 to publish her images in a photo book in 2020, said Gina Martin, the fund’s founder and executive director, said.
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