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Intimate Family Portrait by Photographer Laureate

Exclusively for BredaPhoto and Photo Week, Photographer Laureate Robin de Puy (1986) made the series Jan, about her great uncle Jan Mallan (81) who has Alzheimer’s disease.

September 7, 2016
Text: Guido van Eijck

14233245_10154415983434303_405177060589472373_nRobin de Puy. © Koos Breukel

Who is Jan?
‘Jan is my father’s uncle. In the 1960s he moved to Denmark where he still lives with his Danish wife. I’ve always had a close relationship with them and visit every few months. Last year, Jan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Now it’s like the layers are being peeled away, showing a purer version of my uncle. It’s very sad to see, but also beautiful in a way. He reacts instinctively and pure, almost like a child locked inside the body of a big old man.’

How did your uncle react to being photographed?
‘He thought it was a terrific idea. He really wanted to make this project together with me. He used to like swimming a lot, so I took him swimming in shallow water. At first, his movements were clumsy, but gradually he started having fun. “Did you manage to catch me on film,” he asked. “Wasn’t I under water too much?” I made the moving images together with cameraman Maarten van Rossem.’

What did you want to convey with this project?
‘I don’t know anyone who is as special as my uncle. I wanted to show his unique personality and physique before they disappear.’

The exhibition Jan is on show in Breda’s Museum until 31 December 2016