Alzheimer’s disease runs in photographer Jalal Shamsazaran’s family: his aunt, grandfather, and father, Majid, all have been diagnosed.
So as he documented the final years of his father’s life, in Tabriz, Iran, Shamsazaran recognized his own potential future.
“Perhaps the character and behavior of my father is a part of my character and behavior in future,” he told STAT via a translator. “I can say that I am photographing myself.”
Shamsazaran’s photographs depict grief and loss, but also show the strength and love in his family. In the photo above, Shamsazaran’s mother, Aliyeh, tightly embraces her husband during the late stage of his illness. In another, a portrait drawn by a young grandchild is placed by the elder Shamsazaran’s sleeping face — a reminder of the passage of time that a diagnosis like Alzheimer’s makes all the more apparent.
Majid passed away several years after his diagnosis. In a photograph of Aliyeh visiting his grave, she holds a photo of him as a younger man.
Shamsazaran took these pictures for himself and for his family, but said he also believes their story will resonate with others. “I hope that those who watch these photos, can feel the patience, love, and devotion,” he wrote via a translator. “Since I think that living without devotion and sympathy is not possible.”
“The Loss of Oral History” by Iran-based photographer Jalal Shamsazaran was the recipient of the 2020 Bob and Diane Fund grant to support visual storytelling about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Shamsazaran is represented by NVP Images.