Tris Anderson Photography Tris Anderson Photography

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The Affect Dementia has on my Portraits.

April 15th, 2018

To say my grandmother, Denise, is a gentile and loving woman would be a severe understatement. To give you an idea of how gentile and loving this woman is I will would like to compare her to an angel. Why? Well, she was incredibly soft spoken and had a love for animals that would move Jane Goodall herself. There was not a mean bone in her body and she almost glowed when she would smile… something she did quite a bit of. I remember her as being a lady in every sense of the word and on an any given afternoon, right around 3:30pm, she would get dressed in her evening wear. This would include a piece of ornate, and beautiful, jewelry that would match impeccably to her perfectly curated outfit. Then, she would make herself a vodka and water drink while she would sit in the porch and enjoy some music of the 1930s. My grandmother has long lost her siblings; otherwise you would find her beloved sister, Daphny, right by her side while they chatted about life in the good ole days.

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As a young boy, she was my confident. She would teach me to play Gin and often let me win even though I probably was not very good but that was the type of woman she was. She also was the first person that made me feel comfortable to be me. I liked fashion so she would let me play in her jewelry. I loved nail polish, so she would let me paint my nails. I mean… the list goes on and on…

This is how I would like to remember my grandmother because this is how I believe she would like me to remember her. And no, she is not dead. She is alive but has succumb to a disease that has taken her from me; Dementia. 

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I did not know what was happening to her as a child. I just knew she was getting a little forgetful and from time to time a little moody. However, once she came to live with us it became very very clear something very different. What I did not know at 14 was that her brain cells were damaged and getting worse every day. Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected. (“Dementia | Signs, Symptoms & Diagnosis.” Alzheimer’s Association, www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp.)


As a child, I just saw my grandmother deteriorate. I stopped talking with her, I avoided her at all costs, and when I could not avoided her I would be very curt towards here. I did not have the tools to understand why the woman that meant so much to me was becoming someone I did not recognize.

Now… now she is in a home for people who cannot take care of themselves. She is unrecognizable to me. Her physical health is deteriorating but not nearly as quickly as her mental health has and the only saving grace is that she is not mentally able to see herself in the condition that she has come to at the ripe age of 93.

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There is a lesson in every traumatic experience, and yes – this was traumatic for me. The lesson for me, or the realization, was the power of a portrait.


There was one thing that my grandmother did in her life I am so grateful for; her love of the Polaroid. She has photos of herself at almost every stage of her life and those prints have become is the most valuable thing she has left for me. I will never be able to forget the woman that has transformed my life because of those portraits and that is the power of a portrait for me. I have used this experience at every milestone of my business. It is rooted in what I do and that is because I understand that one day our children, children’s children and so on will look for photos of us – what will they find?