Capturing magic moments using photography

In the summer of July 2021, Sally Knocker and I were able to take part in an inspiring day of creativity in one of our Dragonfly Homes, Huntington House of the Huntington and Langham Estate, near Hindhead in Surrey.  This was a part of wider evaluation of the use of arts in care homes, undertaken by NAPA, the National Activity Providers Association. The full report of the findings of this survey is available to view at

We set up the dining room with tables staged to represent different art and culture – a music table with vinyl records, a trombone, a recorder, song sheets and ballet shoes and programmes, a literature table with a typewriter, poetry books etc, a theatre table with hats, feather boas etc and an art table with paintings, brushes and pallets etc.

People were invited to share what arts they enjoyed in their pasts.   Several of the older people present were experienced artists and had brought along some of their work to share.

The magic started to happen when people were invited to explore the room and find objects or images that they found interesting.  One woman sat at a table talking about her paintings with another woman.  The Polaroid camera and two disposable cameras provided a great focus for connection and fun, with people being invited to take photos of things in the room.  One person was fascinated by a sculpture of two cats and said it had inspired her to use clay to recreate this.   A woman living with dementia who had entered the session somewhat reluctantly came to life with the camera, insisting that outside was where the best images could be taken.  She took off with her walking frame assisted by a care worker and became extremely animated about choosing the right perspective for a photo of a tree and the blue skies above it.  Another participant shared a story of receiving a Sonnet from her first boyfriend.  “I wrote a Sonnet too, but it was about a flower, not the boyfriend!”

We ended the session by using a large frame behind which people could ‘pose’ for a photograph – a simple technique for inviting playfulness and creating a sense of occasion!  This included one woman reciting two poems with great animation with Sally in a performance using different voices for the dialogue.   A woman who had been a professional model enjoyed wearing a hat and a feather boa for the picture.  Other participants posed with paintings and a book they had created.

We intended the session to last only an hour, but it was still going strong after nearly two hours!  The energy and laughter in the room was a joy, and the support and involvement of the care team helped make it a great success. 

Taking a photograph can be a simple but powerful moment of making a choice, having autonomy and making it your own. Almost anyone can do it, if they have the use of their eyes and their hands – and with the right support.

To quote Adele, one of the participants talking about being creative; “It’s real satisfaction. You’ve made something that didn’t exist before…  It’s totally your idea.  It’s your hands that have made it and nobody can take that away from you.”

Leslie who was the model had a different perspective   “I don’t take the photo; I AM the photo!”

Whether people like being in front of or behind the camera, it would be wonderful to see more care homes and day services including more photography related activities into the day.

As someone who is passionate about photography myself, I know this would make a big difference to my wellbeing if I was living in a care home.

Consultant & Trainer

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