Keeping Up Appearances - A challenging photography project exploring the role of appearance in the lives of people living with Dementia/Alzheimers

For  nearly a  year I have been trying to get this project off the ground and I  will be the first to admit that this has been an uphill struggle from the start .

What am I trying to achieve ? Why am I trying to achieve something  ? How do I approach my subject ?   How can I get participants  to come on board with my project - especially on a topic that can be quite sensitive and personal  as I know from my own experience.  So many questions  receiving very few answers . 



I had so many ideas going through my head . But I was on the path of chaos theory hoping that in the end it will all fall into place and make sense .

But no - I still had a blank canvas ..

Until a couple of weeks ago I  had a breakthrough when I went to visit my mother .

My dear mother always the  willing model for my photos !

The chaos theory turned into a simple theory within 24 hours  .  

So this weekend I have finally managed to put my idea to paper and shortly be sending off my project proposal to potential participants  .


Thanks mum !



Square Mile by iPhone

This project was actually a failed project . I failed because of fear  .Street photography  feels me with fear . People see the camera before they see me .Although  I need to  conquer those fears its a very very slow process .

Then I discovered  my iPhone - I have always dismissed my  phone for taking images as  they never look that great and generally  I always see  the phone as something to make phone calls or text and nothing more .Pretty strange considering my background is of a technical nature ( I worked in IT for the last 15 years )  but I have never been a geeky.

iPhone apps opened up a new world for me  and decided to give my failed project a much needed CPR (and stealth ) . 

The ‘Square Mile ’ is in primarily  financial district of the London - The City of London . The first time I worked there was when I was  16 in the late 80’s where ‘greed was good ’ , yuppies   in pinstripe suits shouting ‘Sell’ or profanities on their brick-style mobile phones and the ladies in huge shoulder padded suits clickety clacking in their high heels around Bishopgates  during the morning rush.

I found myself working nearby again  25 years later . Armed with my mobile I put my lunch hour to good use and gave me the much needed break away from my computer screen.

The images are a mixture of colour and black& white - I haven’t quite finished the project but I am pleased with the results  so far  .

I  feel comfortable using my phone for street photography . Especially in the City - do I really need permission to take photo of Lloyds building from  a public street ? 





Hestelle- The Carer’s Story

As part of my new website I decided to post the story on my new blog.
The photo story can be found here <a href=”/2076052” data-link-type=”internal” data-link-value=”2076052”>http://www.sandra-harper.com/hestelle-the-carers-story</a>.
Alexander and Hestelle travelled to England from the Caribbean Island of St Vincent &amp; The Grenadines in the early 60’s.They married her, had 5 children and made a life for themselves in the UK they now called home .

In the 2005 Alexander was diagnosed with prostrate cancer and in 2006 he had a number of mini strokes in a space of a few days . From then on he never fully recovered and started to act out of character.
He lacked awareness of his surrounding area.The police found him wondering around industrial estates miles from home . He would get into a car with a complete stranger if they offered him a lift (luckily on those occasions it was just an act kindness from strangers).
The wallet he carried and left exposed in his back pocket had been stolen on more than one occasion. He would go out in the morning only to be brought home by the police late in the evening .He could no longer indulge in his passion or reading his favourite books as he could not see the nor understand the words in front of him. Hestelle - frantic with worry kept asked him what was wrong , on why he was acting so strange that could be misinterpreted as being stubborn , rude and she pleaded with him to go and see the doctor .
But he denied there was anything wrong and simply replied that she was making a fuss about nothing.
Eventually he was no longer in the position to look after himself - the Dementia took hold of him very quickly. Hestelle needed support to care for him. The carers helped get him in/out of bed , bathed him and clothed him and bring him downstairs for his meals . The doctors and nurses looked after his medical needs and the social worker assessed his welfare needs . Hestelle was always there for him in all those circumstances listening and observing attentively.
His behaviour was like a roller coaster. At times he was happy , chatty,lucid, talking about the days when he was young man in the Caribbean .But then there was the paranoia , accusing Hestelle of trying to poison him, refuse to take his medication or cooperate with the carers. This hurt Hestelle deeply.

As his illness got worse Alexander and Hestelle became housebound. Eventually he was unable of walk down the stairs and so a bedroom was converted in to a living space for him with a sofa and TV .

Hestelle has her own health problems , the daily trip up the stairs to see to Alexanders needs brought unbelievable pain to her arthritic knees - on top of her high blood pressure , heart problems and diabetes. The living room downstairs is where Hestelle has her ‘sanctuary’ .This is the place for her to gather her thoughts , chat to visitors and rest. However all the time she will always have one ear listening out for her husband’s disturbances upstairs .

Night time was the most the troubling time for Hestelle .

Alexander’s sleep pattern was temperamental and disruptive especially for Hestelle. He would try to get out of bed in the early hours insisting that he is going to ‘work’.He would fall out of bed and she would have to call the emergency services to get him back in again .This would happen several times a night . Hestelle was at her wit’s end that to get some form of sleep she would sleep in the spare room.

There were many incidents where Alexander spent some time in the hospital . Usually he stays overnight but sometimes he could be there for a couple of weeks . No matter how long she would always make the journey to the hospital to see him to spend an hour with him . Hestelle had complete devotion to him ..

But patience did not come easy to her - this what she had to learn to deal with Alexander’s erratic behaviour .It was difficult and frustrating at times for her and she cried during those times . He has shouted and sworn at her and even threaten to beat her.This was coming from a man before the illness avoided confrontations and hardly swears . During these emotional times Hestelle would say she had enough and considered putting him in a care home .

But in her heart she could not go through with it .


In February 2013 Alexander spent the last two weeks of his life in hospital . His health took the turn for the worse.He was surrounded by his family who said their goodbyes .For the first time 51 years of marriage Hestelle has to continue her life without Alexander .With the support of her loving family , friends and neighbours she is never alone .

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