The role of carers has been placed in the spotlight, thanks to a photography project run by local charity, Carers in Bedfordshire (CiB).
They launched their ‘My Caring Role’ photographic competition, inviting carers to submit images to represent their life as a carer, how they feel about the role and how it impacts on their lives.
The winners have now been announced, and offer a window into the world of adults and children who care for members of their family.
The competition was judged by Bedford-based photographer, Chiara Mac Call, who said: “It was a real privilege to be asked to judge this competition.
“I feel very passionately about recognising the role of carers and creating spaces for people to talk about, explore and share their experiences.
“I was particularly delighted to see photos taken by children working collaboratively with siblings and parents to create complex and nuanced images. I was also really touched to see images that incorporated a visual dialogue – be that expressed literally or metaphorically – between the carer and the person cared for.”
Roger Freeston was the winner of the adult carer category. He cares for his wife 24/7 who has dementia and is now bedridden and can’t walk or communicate coherently.
He entered a photo of their hands touching representing his love and care for his wife, as well as the everyday aids he uses in housekeeping and his wife’s wheelchair.
Chiara said: “I was struck by the juxtaposition of the two quite sterile images picturing the practical side of caring, alongside the warm connection of the two hands which spoke to me about the emotional aspects of a carer’s role.
“The series as a whole was really successful at highlighting some of the different aspects of a caring role.
“The angle at which the image of the hands was taken also makes the carer’s hand look larger and the hand of the cared-for person smaller. This subtle visual language helps to communicate something about the nature of the relationship in this moment.”
The winners of the sibling carers category went to Olly and Lucas Gyau-Awuah. They help care for their older brother Jaden, who has Angelman Syndrome, which affects the nervous system and causes severe physical and learning disabilities.
Olly, six, is pictured teaching Jaden how to squirt water, as well as helping him walk down a path.
In his entry he said: “My big brother Jaden needs help with things and I like to help because I love him. His brain doesn’t work like mine, but he is clever in his own way.”
Lucas, eight, is also photographed helping Jaden in his wheelchair. The photos were picked as they show that caring for someone is not just about hard work and chores, it’s also about enjoying life and having fun together.
Eliza and Dexter Hutchinson won the young carers category for a photo of a double rainbow on a dark day.
The 10 and seven-year-old, who help care for their grandmother, took the photo together to represent that in the sometimes dark days of caring, there will always be rainbows, that make it all worthwhile.
Chiara picked the photo as she said: “Photography doesn’t always have to be literal and we were very impressed with how you have used a visual metaphor to tell us about your experience.”
Isobel Frost won the parent carer category for two very different images. One is of her crying after a particularly difficult day and the other is of calmer times showing her cuddling her son.
“They work really well together to convey the emotional spectrum for caring for a child with special educational needs, said Chiara, who was moved by the emotional honesty of these images visualising the raw emotion of the highs and lows of caring.
Each winner received shopping vouchers to spend from generous sponsors, Keens Shay Keens Ltd Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers (KSK).
CiB events lead, Jenny Harris, who organised the competition said: “We ran the competition to make carers feel visible and valued and highlight the amazing job they do behind closed doors.
“They are the unsung heroes who play an essential role supporting their relatives and friends. We want to thank everyone who entered and took the time to show us their caring story.
“As well as our generous sponsors for providing the prizes and our wonderful judge Chiara Mac Call for taking the time out of her busy schedule to go through all the entrants and pick the winners.”
The charity provides essential health and wellbeing support, advice and information for carers throughout the county. There are an estimated 40,000 carers across Bedfordshire and whilst the charity supports a great number of them, there are thousands they are yet to reach.
“Many carers do not see themselves as carers, because they are just doing what they can for a relative or friend,” said Jenny.
“But if that person couldn’t cope without your support, you are a carer and we encourage you to register with us so you too can be supported, visible and valued.”
A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for their friend or family member who due to illness, disability, mental health problems or an addiction, cannot cope without their support, or need extra help as they grow older. A carer is also a parent looking after a child with special educational needs.
For further information about Carers in Bedfordshire, or to sign up for support carersinbeds.org.uk.