Elia Luciani’s self-portrait from a mirror on a dresser covered with family photographs. (Elia Luciani)

This is Elia. Elia Luciani was born in 1923 in Carrufo, Italy, a small mountain village northeast of Rome. She lived a full life — she had her first child at 16, moved to Canada in the 1950s and worked for 30 years as head of a clothing factory’s sewing department. In her 90s, she was diagnosed with dementia.

“This wonderful photo mom took encapsulates her life,” said her son, Tony. “Here she is, taking a self-portrait shot in a dresser mirror, partially hiding her aging face behind a small camera and surrounded by meaningful family photos.”

Elia’s self-portrait is one of the three winners in the first edition of Still Living, a photography contest for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It was organized by the Bob and Diane Fund. The other winners are Cynthia Huling Hummel of New York and Pauline Singier of France with Susan Rioult, who were selected from among 75 entrants in eight countries.

For four years, the Bob and Diane Fund has been running a photography contest for professional photographers with the goal of raising visual awareness about a disease “that has been misunderstood for far too long,” said Gina Martin, who launched the fund.

The idea for this new contest originated from a conversation Martin had with Geri Taylor, a friend who was diagnosed with dementia in 2012.

“We present ourselves to the world with our speech, and if we have difficulties speaking and fumble easily, that’s not a pretty picture,” Taylor said. “But the ability to create beauty through the camera, to tell a story through the camera, is a means of communication and of presenting ourselves as people.”

That’s what Elia did with her photo, said her son. “She’s showing the world from her point of view, her perspective, that she still can give meaning,” he said. “[That’s] a powerful message to acknowledge.”

— Olivier Laurent