I have been meeting and photographing the residents at the St Vincent Nursing Home in Lacaune, France for three months. Each week I meet 2 or 3 people who show great generosity, openess and patience as they pose keeping their hands as still as possible for the pinhole camera exposures of 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile we talk, and Radio Lacaune journalist Celine Roucayrol records the conversations for a radio program.
As the director of the home François Peyre points out, people generally have a fear about going into nursing homes. Our society sends its elders to these “homes” removing them from contact with other generations. For the first time I’ve met several people in their nineties, their openness surprised me. The stories the women tell about growing up in conservative, catholic rural France are tender and insightful. Henriette speaks about how she had to abandon her ambition to become a teacher because of parental disapproval and economic constraints. Freedom to choose a lifestyle was also exceptional, single women had to cope with derision.
My new friends show great courage as they adapt to life in a nursing home. Coming to terms with losing their homes and independence. Many admit feeling exiled, and are just trying to pass the time, in such contrast to the world outside where everyone is rushing around not noticing the time go by.