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Beginning at the End: Portraits of Dementia

Joe Wallace | United States

Bixia Liu was an elementary school teacher in Guangzhou, China. At age 63, she immigrated to the United States and became a daycare teacher. Today, Bixia has advanced dementia and looks forward to visits from Charlie, the therapy dog – quietly appreciating his patient demeanor and reliable willingness to spend time together without expectations.

In 2019, 50 million people are living with dementia globally. In the United States, one in three seniors suffers with Alzheimer’s or dementia at the time of their death. And yet despite the millions of individuals and families affected, dementia is often a taboo subject with limited public awareness or discourse. A diagnosis can become a mechanism for segregating those affected from society, making it easy to see only the label instead of the individuals.Dementia however does not discriminate. These portraits reflect a cross-section of races and ethnicities affected.


Subjects were photographed and interviewed individually or with a caregiver. Each portrait is paired with a second photograph from the subject’s youth and is presented with anecdotes or stories from the interview to use empathy as a means for connection and understanding and challenge the audience to truly see the subjects, not just their diagnosis.



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