The power of photography

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A unique therapeutic project that seeks to improve the quality of life of silvers with dementia has been designed using an idea of ‘photo intervention’. The art project involves dementia patients looking through Photographic Treatment, a book series that features black-and-white photographic diptychs collected and edited by Laurence Aëgerter, a French visual artist based in Amsterdam. The diptychs pair unrelated images that are surprisingly similar; for instance, a flamingo’s long neck is juxtaposed with playground slides, and a walrus is set against a bunch of bananas. Based on the principle of ‘use it or lose it’, the visuals are designed to stimulate brain activity and encourage creativity in dementia patients. “It is really a trigger for their fantasy, because their world becomes so small in this care environment—very protected, without any surprise, and totally dull,” Aëgerter tells “People are sometimes treated too much like children. I thought, ‘What about triggering the mind, but in a way that’s less confronting?’ This project really leaves people in their own value, and there is no quiz, and there is no shame to have.”

World over, the book has received much recognition and appreciation, including the Author Book Award at the Les Rencontres d’Arles photo festival in France. “Everybody was very touched by the book, and the fact that photography has the ability to help people with dementia, help them use their fantasy, help them feel much more happy and healthy, is something amazing,” said Marloes Krijnen, director of the international photographic organisation Foam and president of the jury that selected Photographic Treatment for the award.

Aëgerter has made these photos accessible for free download and hopes residential care facilities “perform the photo intervention”. Visit

Photo courtesy: Laurence Aëgerter
April 2019