What is Pass the Crown and what do you hope to accomplish with the work?
Pass The Crown, from Honeydark Creative Studio, is an ongoing editorial-style portrait project honoring men and women of color who are living with dementia. The goal is to allow these beautiful people to showcase their strength and power via compelling visual imagery while humanizing their presence in society.
I was a caretaker for my grandmother (Nana) Grace, who suffered from dementia, for 9 years. To watch dementia take over such a marvelous mind was heartbreaking. A few weeks before her passing, I had a fun, impromptu photoshoot with Grace. I placed a crown on her head that I had purchased online and chose to tilt it slightly to the side for style. (This was the last wonderful moment we would share with her like that in our home. A few weeks later, she would go to be with her ancestors.)
The models for the Pass the Crown project have been diagnosed with either dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Each model will physically wear Grace’s crown from her last photo shoot. Passing the crown from image to image represents acknowledging the greatness of a person beyond their dementia diagnosis.
My goal is to show that the people we love still live within, despite dementia. They still have wants, needs, and seek the same love. They are wise people who now communicate in a different way and it is up to us to maintain that connection.
Who initially inspired you to grapple with dementia?
Nana Grace is the inspiration for this project all together. Grace was a nursing supervisor, church leader, social advocate and community staple. She raised 3 kids while working multiple jobs at once to put herself through nursing school and later in life completed studies in divinity to become a reverend.
Today, I’m now a care-partner for Nana Grace’s daughter, who was also recently diagnosed with dementia following Grace’s passing. Caregiving gives me firsthand experience of what dementia is, what it does and how it affects the person who is diagnosed and the loved ones around them.
It was very difficult watching my Nana deal with dementia and is difficult now watching my aunt walk down the same path. However, it has also brought us closer. I’ve learned about my aunt’s expanded hobbies, interests, and humor, for example. I also see her every day now, whereas before we led separate lives.
How has working on dementia-related art changed you?
Dementia changed my priorities with everything. I realized how important time is and why it is equally important to give your time to situations and to people who are beneficial to your presence. You don’t get time back.
This work also allowed me to realize even more that having a voice is extremely necessary. Those who can’t speak or those who have limited access to platforms deserve to be recognized. I have found, in my most recent work, that using photography as a voice for underrepresented people in society brings me joy, while also allowing those who are usually overlooked to tell their stories in creative and powerful ways.
How has Pass the Crown been received?
I am still in the process of shooting the Pass the Crown project. Initial feedback from my community has been positive. I have interacted with persons living with dementia who are so excited to be acknowledged— as are their caregivers.
The love felt from all directions is amazing! This history beyond the dementia diagnoses and just the wisdom alone keeps me going and I can’t wait to exhibit this work soon!
This work is dedicated to: It is dedicated to my Nana Grace!
Find more information visit Honeydark Creative Studios.