The Sleepwalker by Bex Finch

Issue 35

My father was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in December 2007; he was 57 years old. Shortly after starting graduate work in photography at San Francisco Art Institute in 2009, I began capturing photographs, both of my father as his disease progressed, and of myself as the reality of his condition sunk in. The Sleepwalker self portrait series is an attempt to understand what my father is going through: feeling increasingly lost, directionless, and disconnected from his surroundings. Through solitary photographs of myself at the break of day, I’ve attempted to portray the feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and a deep sadness which my father has experienced as a result of his illness.

I discovered the term “twilighting” which is used to describe how Alzheimer’s patients become more and more agitated as day turns into night. As a photographer, the term struck me as relevant, as twilight always seems to be an ambiguous time of day -- beautiful but bittersweet, with darkness around the corner. Much as twilight is a suspension between day and night, my father’s consciousness at the time -- which has since gotten much worse -- was suspended between clarity and obstruction, between light and dark.

I saw his frustration with feeling suddenly “in the dark,” and in his eyes the struggle to find clarity. Through The Sleepwalker self portraits, I emulated this struggle. For several months, I woke up and set out before dawn a couple times each week to photograph myself at the break of light. I titled the series The Sleepwalker as it seems that is what my father is becoming -- an emotionless individual wandering through space and time. I like to think of this series as a legacy to his life, cut short but beautiful all the same.

Bex Finch is a San Francisco, California based photographer.
To view more of Bex's work, please visit her website.