The idea that a bank of stored memories can no longer be called upon can be one of the most distressing aspects of being diagnosed with dementia.

But a project based in Kirriemuir is putting people back in the frame with a weekly camera club that documents the experiences of people living with dementia through photography and sound.

Photographs capture moments in time, memorialising experiences and allowing them to be revisited, often bringing happy times flooding back in.

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When living with dementia, the act of taking a permanent image becomes even more pertinent which is what brought documentary photographer Keith Lloyd Davenport and composer Dr Shona Mackay together to collaborate on audiovisual project, Reframing Dementia.

A group met weekly to learn camera techniques and were each given a digital camera to take home and encouraged to document their day-to-day lives.

Mr Lloyd Davenport said: "Reframing Dementia is a documentary project trying to reframe how dementia is perceived. The inspiration was to work with people who were recently diagnosed with dementia and help them document their lives."

After giving each person a small digital camera, Mr Lloyd Davenport and Ms Mackay taught them how to make images that told stories.

Every week for seven weeks they would meet at Kirrie Connections, a dementia-friendly community centre, to review the images taken between visits.

Alongside the photography, Dr Mackay recorded interviews with the participants to help them tell their story with their own voice. She adds that using the two mediums makes the project and resulting exhibition more accessible for many.

It was through the recorded conversations she discovered that working with the camera helped unlock parts of their brains that may have been fading.

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She said: "There were mentions of using the photographs to make memories to remind them of things from the past, taking photos which reminded them of that. There was a mention of new skills being discovered that they weren't aware of and they didn't have access to before."

The project also built confidence in people, giving them a boost and a new way to express their own experiences.

Reframing Dementia had such a positive impact that partners and family members of people taking part commented on how moods had been elevated and a sense of confidence regained.

Dr Mackay said: "They said they could see a difference and feel a difference with them, and being really keen to take the camera with them everywhere. It's such a brilliant thing because we were seeing them once a week but really it's about the ongoing impact and how families experience that as well."

HeraldScotland: Credit: Keith Lloyd DavenportCredit: Keith Lloyd Davenport

 

With the shared experience of each having a grandmother diagnosed with dementia, both Dr Mackay and Mr Lloyd Davenport were moved to work with people living with the condition using their particular skillsets but it was on discovering, and winning, funding from the Dementia Services Development Trust that brought the idea to life.

Mr Lloyd Davenport said: "I trained as a documentary photographer and for me to give something back to that community and to help people see dementia for what it really is, and to change people's perceptions of what is shown in the wider media, that's what really inspired us both."

Dr Mackay added: "We wanted to show the realities of [living with dementia] and work with people to document their own experience as opposed to the kind of stock images - to show how people really experience it and now how others imagine it to be."

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The project will culminate in an exhibition showcasing the work of the regular participants. The Bank Street Gallery in Kirriemuir will host the event from February 29 to March 1 before it moves to other locations. Sharing the images with the community it documents was a vital aspect of the project so that participants can share their work and celebrate it with family and friends, said Mr Lloyd Davenport.

The aim now for the pair is to work towards rolling out the initiative across Scotland.

Dr Mackay said: "We have both learned so much from it and found it beneficial on so many levels for us as artists and for the participants and their families. We're hoping to expand on the interest other community hubs have expressed.

"It's such a worthwhile project that will have a different impact on different communities and that's the interesting thing about it. No two people will experience dementia the same way and the images that come from that will be entirely unique."