Behind the Series with Amanda Dalby

I did not know it at the time, but this would be the last morning with my mother before she passed away later in 2020. During my last day with her, I felt the need to capture us together in some form; our feet closely together, my reflection next to hers, our portraits on the walls. In these images I am searching for the traces of our bond and the mother I once knew.

Judges Choice Award – 18 Years with Alzheimers; Searching for the Mother I knew. by Amanda Dalby, United Kingdom.

I tried several times to photograph my mother during previous visits to my childhood home in South Africa from the UK, but I found it difficult to capture her as she was. It was hard to reconcile the memory of the elegant, gracious person who raised me with the person she had become. The images are still hard for me to see.

It was mid morning on our last day together when I picked up my camera.  The light was poor and I found that by converting the images to black and white it gave more consistency to the series.  It also helped to simplify the story and focus on the emotions behind the images.

To anyone who has had any experience with Alzheimers or dementia they will understand the long standing grief of losing someone little by little, piece by piece.  Only now, with my mothers passing are we allowed to grieve and express our loss.  But this grief has been 18 years in the making.  18 years of family holidays, weddings, births, grandchildren and life unshared.  In these images they will recognise the vacant, hollow stare in their loved ones eyes, and the heartbreaking need to hold a soft toy close for comfort.

Photography is important to me as a creative outlet to express my feelings and emotions, and also to document my experience of the world as it is. If I am able to convey a thought, emotion or idea to the viewer then the image has done its work.

You can view the full series HERE, find more of Amanda’s work at and on Instagram @amandajanedalby

The Documentary Family Awards is an international competition in search of the insightful and meaningful ways that documentary photographers explore the interpretation of family.