Student captures the 'life of a centenarian'
Each year, Wesley Mission Brisbane welcomes a group of talented individuals from Griffith University to take part in a unique experience. The Griffith University / Wesley Mission Brisbane photographic competition encourages photojournalism students to tell the stories of staff, volunteers and the people we support and present a portfolio of photographs from their time with the organisation.
2011 was the seventh year that Wesley Mission Brisbane and Griffith University partnered to provide the competition, and the students’ work was exhibited at Wesley Mission Brisbane’s Wheller Gardens complex.
Photographer, musician, student and part-time hair stylist Dylan Evans was awarded first prize for the 2011 competition. The man of many talents received the $2000 prize for his project "timeline of a centenarian". Through his work Dylan photographed the life of Ellis Bramley, a resident at Youngman Lodge, one of Wheller Gardens’ independent living facilities.
Ellis served as a minister with the Queensland Uniting Church for over 70 years and is a valued member of the community, one year receiving over 450 Christmas cards.
Dylan says a conversation inspired the project. "We sparked up a conversation and just started chatting, and he showed me some of his things, like his old army uniform and his letter from the Queen," says Dylan. "Seeing his possessions gave me the idea to do a portrait of 100 years – to show people what a full life looks like visually."
Lenore Eggins, manager at Wesley Mission Brisbane’s Day Respite Centre, says that we often undervalue what older people have to offer. "One of the issues I see is that we don’t ask older people to tell us about themselves or their opinions – we forget that their ideas and values are just as important as our own and hold a wealth of experience, wisdom and insight," she says.
Dylan’s project aims to visually document Ellis’ life and share his experiences with others. "Part of the reason we really connected is that Ellis is a great story teller – he loves to talk."
"One of the most interesting things in his possession was his manual hair clippers – I loved that they still had hair in them, as if they were frozen in time. We also found an old record player that I think Ellis had forgotten he even had. It’s amazing what people collect over a lifetime," says Dylan.
David Lloyd, Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching at Griffith University’s College of Art, has high praise for the competition and partnership with Wesley Mission Brisbane. "It’s an opportunity for students to engage meaningfully with their community, and learn about community issues in a personal way," he says.