The best portrait photography is truly mesmerising; a compliment which can surely be paid to Alex Ten Napel’s series of Alzheimer’s patients. In a somewhat ironic manner, the Dutch photographer has created enrapturing, memorable images of elderly and enigmatic faces. They’re both heartbreaking and joyful, delightful and despairing, as Alex has caught “that specific moment portrait photographers wait for: the moment in which posture and facial expression come together in a meaningful manner.”
At the nursing home where he shot the documentary series, Alex says he “sat at a table in the living room, drank a cup of coffee and had a chat with the residents,” studying their characteristic gestures and expressions, before taking their portraits in a separate studio room set up at the home.
“Alzheimer’s disease shows us human existence without any decoration,” says Alex. Dementia can be scary and, “unfortunately emotions confuse the patients and… us.” The beauty of Alex’s work is that it breaks down this barrier, allowing us to embrace the sadness and the smiles that the illness gives way to.