Jun 19, 2019

Family portraits capture aged care residents in a favourite location

A Hong Kong photographer’s family portraits of nursing home residents with their families has been so well received, he now wants to take the concept global.

When photographer Dick Lau was first asked to take portraits of residents in an aged care home, he wasn’t too interested in the idea.

“The original idea from the nursing home staff was taking a portrait for the elderly,” he explained to HelloCare.

“It is an unpleasant thing, and I wanted to reject it at the beginning,” he said.

But he reconsidered the offer, luckily, with the idea of photographing residents in front of a place that was important to them for a series of family and funeral portraits.  

Image: Dick Lau.
Image: Enjoy the Tea Time, by Dick Lau


Where would you go if you could leave the nursing home?

He began working on the series by asking residents where they would go if they were to leave the nursing home.

“I talked to each elderly where they would go if they could return to the outside world. According to their wishes, I was looking for their wished places,” he said.

He then prepared huge backdrops and set up his equipment in a special room in the nursing home, and got to work.

Taiwan sunset
Image: Taiwan Sunset, by Dick Lau

Everyone is getting old…

The series is about time, Mr Lau told HelloCare.

“Everyone is getting old while the time is passing. An elderly person stays at the nursing home.  

“What are they thinking and what are their dreams?  What is the relationship between their families and themselves after they moved in?” he wondered

The photos gave residents an opportunity to do something meaningful, both for themselves, and for their families, Ms Lau explained.

“In this project, I arranged a chance for them to do a meaningful activity together with their families.  It works well,” he said.

Mr Lau’s favour photo is of a father who is proud of his dentist son.

“Wong Shek Man, a man who worked as an electrical technician, is very proud of his dentist son,” Mr Lau told HelloCare.

“He jokingly proposed to dress up as a tooth worm for this family photo.”

Image: The Dentist and Tooth Worm, by Dick Lau
Image: The Dentist and Tooth Worm, by Dick Lau

Taking the photographs was a joyous experience for the families

Mr Lau said taking the photo was as satisfying to him as the final product, and he’s glad he didn’t just use photoshop to create the images quickly and easily, but instead insisted on taking live photos in a studio-like format.

“I think the process is the most important section,” he said.

“When the elderly and their families came into the room and saw the backdrops and the setup, they were extremely excited.”

The photos, both the portraits and behind-the-scenes images to remind them of the process, have brought pleasure to the residents and their families, Mr Lau said, as well as giving them something to treasure.

Mr Lau said they were extremely thankful.

“The process made them feel delighted and talkative afterward,” he said. “They talked happily to each other with their photos on hand.”

Image: Behind the Scene, by Dick Lau
Image: Behind the Scenes, by Dick Lau

The photos improved both emotions and health

Mr Lau said he did not expect such a positive reaction to the photos.

“It surprised me that [the photos] help to improve their emotions and affect their health,” he said.  

Taking the concept global

In fact, the project has been so successful, Mr Lau plans to set up a website about the project, which is titled ‘Return’, and hopes to inspire other photographers.  

“I hope to collaborate with other photographers who would do the same thing in their countries and we can share the photos on that website.

“I think this is a meaningful project for the elderly and their families. It is important to remind us of caring for the elderly for the rest of their lives,” he said.

To find out more about Dick Lau’s photos and how to collaborate with him, you can visit his website.

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  1. This venture reminded me of an ABC program on Sunday About a photographer in China doing amazing wedding photographs of young couples. They then decided that the old people who have gone through the cultural revolution had not been properly married like their granddaughters. So they made the old couples dress up as brides and grooms and they looked beautiful. They explained how horrid their life had been during the Revolution with no glamour and hard work.

  2. Thanks Nia, I’ll look into this – it sounds lovely and interesting. Apologies for the slowness of this reply, too.

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