Bridge Back Home by Yang Zhou

The project “Bridge Back Home” was intended to be a documentary of my grandparents’ daily life, to record how they take care of each other in every trivial ways and to celebrate their marriage over half a century, but in the end, it is something else and indefinable. My 83-year-old grandma got dementia. We’ve discovered this in 2009 but at the beginning, except for forgetting things easily and murmuring things beyond our understanding from time to time, she was no different from a normal elderly. However, when I actually began the shooting in late 2010, things have changed dramatically. Within a year, the disease took over totally. She forgot how to walk, became incontinent and had gone from wheelchair-ridden to bedridden. One evening I peeked from the door when my mum was cleaning her body, when the smelly feces poured out from the bottom on her legs. My mum was freaked out and I felt a strong sense of powerlessness and shame. Neither my image nor I can do anything to help. Later my grandma was sent to hospital. We visit her everyday but she has forgotten us all: my 88-year-old grandpa who has spent 55 years with her, my mum who is her only child and me who is brought up by her and has been living together for over two decades. This is the hardest thing for us to accept. We bring her meals and fruit puree, stroke her face and comb her hair, but many a time she doesn’t even open her eyes. We feel a lack of meaning. Then I bring in the camera and the shooting becomes a therapy for my family, which I sense is helping us to accept the reality and communicate with each other. Actually, it has been some time since I first felt difficult to communicate with my family. I do have the heavy and beautiful feeling of home and am grateful, but I am not understood. Especially with my mum, I feel as if we were in different spaces though physically we are together. Now, the time spent in my grandma's ward is the rare occasion that we are connected emotionally. We share the same concern for my grandma and the same happiness when she responds to our calling. The camera witnesses and enhances this link and becomes the bridge between my family and me.

Year: 2012
Photographed in: Shanghai
Camera used: film, contax

One Response to “Bridge Back Home”


  1. Thank you for sharing. My grandma has early stages of dementia and I can empathise with you.

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