The Herald Bulletin

April 9, 2014

Stories from elders' perspectives to debut

Alexandria photographer has gallery for 'Through Their Eyes' project

By Kelly Dickey
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ALEXANDRIA — Lisa Hobbs set out to see through the elderly’s eyes, and now the public will be able to view it, too.

For a little more than a month, the photographer worked on “Through Their Eyes,” a project that focused on 10 residents at Alexandria Care Center. She photographed and interviewed them about important moments in their lives.

“I sometimes wish I had more details for the stories, but it’s through their eyes,” she said. “They’re telling me about their lives.”

Now the community can get a glimpse of history through their elders’ perspectives at a gallery for the project at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Alexandria Care Center, 1912 S. Park Ave.

The portraits of five men and five women from the nursing home will be paired with a written story from their lives and displayed. Hobbs’ portrait of 92-year-old Alexandria resident Wally VanErman and his story about surviving the Battle of Iwo Jima – her test run before she got funding for the project – will also be displayed.

From the beginning Hobbs planned on selling the photos and donating the money to the Alzheimer’s Association. Each portrait at the gallery will be sold for $200.

Hobbs said the residents she interviewed range from 76 to 93 years old. She sat with them and got stories of war, everyday life and even stories of loneliness.

“It’s really hard to take someone’s life and put it on a piece of paper,” Hobbs said. “… I hope I did a good job. I don’t know how I’d feel if someone wrote one page about my life and then I had to read it.”

Some of the participants were hesitant to open up to her at first, Hobbs said. Some of the initially quiet ones struggled to stop talking once they got started.

They all eventually warmed up to her, and she built relationships with them in a short amount of time.

Most of them ended up giving her advice on loving others, respect and working hard. She said a lot of them said they felt they were only 40 or 50 years old.

And Hobbs got a peek at their youthfulness when it was time to take their pictures.

“It was cute,” she said. “Every time I’d ask to take their picture, they’d smile and giggle like little school boys and girls.”

Jared Smith, social services director at Alexandria Care Center, said all the residents were impressed with Hobbs. They said nothing but positive things about the photographer and the experience.

“She was invested in their stories and getting to know them,” he said. “They felt it was quite genuine on her end.”

Smith said he’s seen one of the images set to be displayed Sunday and he’s anxious to see the rest. The nursing home hasn’t ever done anything like the project before, and is open to doing it again in the future.

Hobbs said the portraits will be on display for about a week following the gallery opening. Additional prints can be purchased from Hobbs, as well as a Portable Document Format (PDF) for the stories.

She’ll also eventually start posting the portraits and stories on her website and Facebook page. She plans to post one story every week or two.

“It’s kind of a mission you want to keep going and give recognition to the nursing home,” Hobbs said. “You want people to keep thinking about the people in there, otherwise it fades away.”

Like Kelly Dickey on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KellyD_THB, or call 640-4805.