Mom’s Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Inspires Photographer to Create ‘Flowers For Mom’ Series
Since August 2, 2016, photographer Elmore DeMott has taken a photograph of a flower every single day in a total of 20 states and 11 countries. Entitled “Flowers For Mom,” this unique series is Elmore’s artistic response to her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. Passionate about getting people to connect with nature, Elmore’s award-winning work is displayed in corporate art collections, galleries, and museums.
With an official Alzheimer’s diagnosis, my mother was functioning fairly well until July of 2016 when she had a major fall followed by rapid decline. Suddenly we were dealing with surgery, rehab, a wheelchair ramp, a team of care partners, and an altered way of life. While I could work with my family to make sure Mom’s daily care needs were met, I wanted to do more, but curing her Alzheimer’s was not possible.
Connecting with nature soothes my soul, so to cope with my grief and frustration I found myself rising early, being outside, and photographing flowers. On August 2, 2016, I decided to begin photographing a flower a day to honor my mother’s Alzheimer’s journey, and thus “Flowers for Mom” was born. Since that day, I have had a daily practice of pausing to find a flower, appreciating its beauty and capturing it on camera. From the various angles and different images, I choose one shot to officially become a part of the collection. All images are horizontal and shot with the same lens. I add only one a day and do not skip a day.
2. Why are flowers so important in your life?
I don’t remember a time when flowers have not been a part of my life. Having a father with a green thumb and a mother with a talent for arranging flowers, we regularly had fresh flowers around us. That clearly rubbed off on me as I like to always have the presence of nature in my home whether it be through forced bulbs, grocery store flowers, or something clipped when enjoying time outside. Growing up in Alabama I always had ready access to the great outdoors and spent many days of my childhood exploring Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum, a garden long supported and nurtured by my parents for the public to enjoy. Many of the “Flowers for Mom” are from that special place where my mother loved to give tours, especially to groups of children.
3. How does your mom respond to the images?
When one has a brain disease, they do not always respond in the same way each time something is presented. Such is the case when I show my mother the flower photos. On the good days, whether I show her prints or digital images, she revels in the beauty of the flowers and enjoys the stories about where I photographed them which currently includes 20 states, the District of Columbia and 12 countries. It is a special treat to take her to see installations of my large fine art prints as she is often treated like a celebrity since she inspired the collection. There are days when Mom is unable to connect with the flowers at all, but as a part of the wonder of brain disease, the next time I tell her about the “Flowers for Mom,” it feels like I have given her a brand new gift and she expresses great surprise over the fact that I do this every day!
4. What has the experience meant to you as an artist?
It is one thing to create technically good art, but when there is great depth to the meaning of the work, that is where the real power lies. Now that I have photographed a flower a day for over two years, there is richness in the body of images and I marvel at the way I am touched through the process of creative expression. Nature provides us a window for tremendous understanding, and by having nature as my subject, there is visual representation of the cycle of life, the beauty in the fading, and the promise of new growth. Art has the power to challenge us, to make us think, and to soothe us. “Flowers for Mom” has provided such opportunities to me and has given me the gift of touching the lives of others. We all have the power to be creative, and for me, that means photography. My wish is for all people to find their own creative outlets as they face their personal joys and sorrows on this life journey.
5. How has this project inspired your friends and family?
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my own act to face a challenging time in my life could blossom into something much larger than me and reach people across the globe. This body of work serves as a reminder that when faced with difficulties, we can choose how to respond. For some, the hardship may be cancer, or a child going through rough times, or the loss of a job. For me, the hardship is Alzheimer’s. Through my choosing to appreciate moments of beauty in the midst of adversity, the flowers have grown well beyond the walls of my personal garden. I share flowers daily on social media and marvel at how people I hardly know or have never met will reach out and tell me their personal stories and how this work has deeply touched them.
Seeking a daily flower has given my father and me something to talk about other than just the needs and status of my mother. He is my best flower scout and I so enjoy his tips of where he has spotted something interesting in bloom. My husband and daughters are great sports because they know when we are together that somewhere on that day I must find a flower to photograph. Now people familiar with this collection will notice and photograph flowers wherever in the world they may be, and they often share those images with me by text, e-mail, or in the new Flowers for Mom Facebook group. I am being given opportunities to show my art, to speak, to write, and to participate in important conversations about topics including Alzheimer’s, protecting nature, and the need for creativity in our lives.
We each have the power to choose how to respond to what life gives us. I choose to see what is good, to feel love, and to appreciate moments of joy. Beauty abounds. We must seek it daily.
Contact the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on purchasing fine art prints from the collection on the Elmore DeMott Photography website. The prints are gorgeous in series and, as discovered by a hospital foundation, they can be used as a means to raise funds while building an art collection in honor of special mothers and loved ones. For more words and images to enlighten and entertain, join Elmore’s Camera Journey e-mail list and connect on social media.
This piece was featured in the Sept. 16th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.