Mario Zorzi says he’s an amateur photographer, but the portraits in his photo series Nelle Mani del Padre (In the Hands of the Father) show not just a mastery of light and composition but a specific attention to humanity. And it’s not just anyone’s humanity: this 33-year-old from Verona, Italy, is capturing his father’s life with Alzheimer’s disease.
In a PetaPixel post, Zorzi said he started taking photos of father Giovanni in 2011. It was a casual hobby at first, but as time went on, it became more of a formalized project. He zeroed in on his father’s hands and gestures. “I am using hands as a ‘tool,’ a way to document the progression of Alzheimer’s as well as the everyday life of both my father and my mother, who is the caregiver and who copes with every kind of need he has,” he wrote.
And in an email to A Plus, Zorzi explained that the project is both a way of memorializing his father and providing himself a sense of catharsis. “I was scared, and still I am, by the fact that I could forget how he was and he is,” he said. “Therefore, taking pictures of him is a sort of therapy.”
Zorzi hopes his portraits can raise awareness of how Alzheimer’s affects both patients and the caregivers. “Alzheimer’s, as I’ve experienced it, is a terrible disease that destroys the mind and the body of the patient, but it also affects the family, the people who love the patient and take care of him. I do not know if it is right what I am writing, but in some ways, let me say, it is a form of social disease. It involves a small community.”
When asked if there were any misconceptions about Alzheimer’s he wanted to dispel, Zorzi said it’s a myth that this chronic neurodegenerative disease only affects the elderly. Giovanni was 66 when he started displaying symptoms, and his neurologist said some Alzheimer’s patients are diagnosed decades earlier. “She tells us that … the symptoms are starting to appear at a younger age than my father. She has patients of 45 or 50 years old,” Zorzi revealed. “This is a terrible fact. I think I’ve been lucky enough to have had my father in full health for about 25 years. I have had time to do things with him, to create memories of him in full health.”
“My father, Giovanni, is a good-hearted man,” Zorzi added. “The thing I like most about him is his ability to always try to say or do something that can make you laugh. He always tries to make you comfortable, to create a smile on your face.”
Below are eight photos Zorzi said have particularly deep meaning for him. You can find others on his Instagram page.