A photographer grapples with the legacy of Alzheimer’s disease

Jalal Shamsazaran’s father was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease more than five years ago. “I found out that it’s inherited in our family,” the Iranian photographer said. “My grandfather had Alzheimer’s, my father had Alzheimer’s, and my aunt also has Alzheimer’s.” So when Shamsazaran decided to photograph his father’s struggles with the degenerative disease, he did it with the expectation that he might be documenting the changes in behavior and personality that he may, one day, experience himself. “Maybe it can be said that I am somehow photographing myself,” he said.

Shamsazaran’s images, which chronicled the last years of his father’s life before his death in early 2020, have been selected as this year’s recipient of the Bob and Diane Fund, a grant designed to promote work “that increases the understanding of the disease and inspires research to end it,” said Gina Martin, the fund’s creator.

“Jalal captures his father’s decline into dementia until his death with such tenderness and respect,” she added. “His beautiful black-and-white images with his distinct style and voice shows the power of visual storytelling.”

For Shamsazaran, the grant is another opportunity to raise awareness about the disease, which affects more than 50 million people in the world, and 750,000 in Iran alone. “Any father with Alzheimer’s can be my father, and I am the child of all of them,” Shamsazaran said.

Jan. 17, 2020: “The slim hands of my father rest on blanket as he sleeps. These hands are part of our country’s history to me and they make me to remember the hardships he went through for his family.” (Jalal Shamsazaran/NVPImages)

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