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Matinee: Judith Fox Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

27 December 2014

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the sixty-fifth in our series of Saturday matinees today: I Still Do by Judith Fox.

You can look at this five minute clip several ways. But we find it particularly poignant this time of year for one particular reason (which we will, we promise, eventually reveal).

No one is immune from illness. And when it strikes, it always threatens to redefine us. Our lives can easily become all about dealing with the threat it poses, our conversation all about the effects, the treatments. We are no longer a person but a patient.

In 2009 photographer and author Judith Fox published I Still Do, a 128-page portrait of her husband. Three years into their marriage, he started showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Part of her portrait is portraying his Alzheimer's, which Fox felt had been "in the closet for too long." But five years later, Alzheimer's is no longer in the closet. Her depiction of the disease isn't the reason we find I Still Do moving.

"One of the wonderful things about being a photographer and photographing Ed," she says, "is that it's another way of loving him, of touching him through the camera lens."

For Fox, he remains a person, not a patient. And her photography captures his personality behind the veil in which the disease shrouds him.

It is this portraiture which moves us as we circulate around our family and friends at this joyful time of year. To be able to see beyond the physical needs of a distressed person to the human being.

It takes, perhaps, a photographer to do that job. To stop time long enough to capture a smile that peeks out from the cloud of the disease. Or two hands whose fingers are woven into a connection no disability can break.

In this clip, Fox also shares an important perspective on care giving. Those of us who have had the fortune of caring for someone will recognize it but those who haven't might find it helpful. It goes beyond the refusal to "do any less," as she puts it, to "the privilege" of being there at their side as they navigate the greatest crisis in their life.

Recognizing in the suffering of others the limits of human life is humbling. We are forced to discard the fantasy that we will never get sick and die. We have to admit that we all stumble toward the same fate.

The photographer, Fox reminds us, there is no stigma to decline. In that, no one is alone.

But in closely accompanying a loved one along that path, we see past the decline and beyond the disease to the person. In more fleeting glimpses, no doubt, but still there long enough to be appreciated. And, captured in a photograph, always remembered.

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