The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)  in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, will display, from May 15 to October 11, 2010, a series of powerful and poignant portraits of elderly patients of Toronto physician Dr. Mark Nowaczynski. The 36 black and white photos document the house-bound patients’ problems including lack of medical and supportive home care services.

Dr. Mark Nowaczynski gave the following eye-opening comments:  “If we didn’t go to these individuals, they wouldn’t get any health care because they can’t come to us. They would fall through the cracks. These are hidden worlds, people who cease to exist who have no voice. One day this will be you and I. You are not looking at an exotic species in another world – you are looking at your future.”

As a visitor to this photo essay exhibition, you will experience a photographic journey into the lives of four patients captured by the lens of Dr. Nowaczynski during his “House Calls with my Camera” visits.

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House Calls with my Camera: Social Documentary Portraits by Dr. Mark Nowaczynski

Powerful photos of seniors in need on display at the ROM

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) presents House Calls with my Camera, a poignant series of photo essays capturing the lives of the patients of Toronto physician Dr. Mark Nowaczynski. The 36 powerful photos taken by Dr. Nowacyznski, many of which are on display for the first time, document the hidden world of his house-bound patients, revealing the startling lack of medical and supportive home care services of this vulnerable population. House Calls with my Camera will be on display on Level 2 in the Hilary and Galen Weston Wing from May 15 to October 11, 2010.

“Dr. Mark Nowaczynski’s work follows a long line of photo documentarians – individuals gifted with the ability to wed their exceptional artistic talent with strong social convictions. The ROM is delighted to display the work of Dr. Nowaczynski, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the beauty of his stirring photography, while considering the harsh realities of our aging population,” said William Thorsell, ROM Director and CEO.

“If we didn’t go to these individuals, they wouldn’t get any health care because they can’t come to us. They would fall through the cracks. These are hidden worlds, people who cease to exist who have no voice. One day this will be you and I. You are not looking at an exotic species in another world – you are looking at your future,” said Dr. Mark Nowaczynski.

About the Exhibition
House Calls with my Camera features 36 black and white photographs taken by Dr. Nowaczynski of his patients, with a focus on four at-risk individuals. The exhibition gives the viewer insight not only into seniors’ quality of life and the subjects’ personal stories, but an appreciation of the transformative power of photography.

Taken in black and white using a 4×5 large format camera, each photograph is printed traditionally on silver gelatin fibre-based paper from high-quality negatives. The resulting images convey vulnerability, but also a quiet strength and courage, as each struggle to live the rest of their lives with dignity.

The subject of a Gemini Award winning National Film Board of Canada documentary, House Calls, Dr. Nowaczynski’s photographs have raised awareness about the many complex issues related to aging. In 2009 the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care announced the funding of the House Calls team through the Aging at Home Strategy. The House Calls team is an interdisciplinary community-based group led by Dr. Nowaczynski that assists aging in place and improves the quality of life of seniors by providing on-going integrated home-based care.

Visitors will experience a photographic journey into the lives of four patients captured by the lens of Dr. Nowaczynski during his House Calls visits:

John L.
John L., age 79, was living like a hermit, isolated and alone and his apartment showed evidence of hoarding. He was a Korean War veteran with flashbacks, suffering from post-traumatic stress, dementia, and heart disease.

The House Calls team assessed, treated, and monitored his complex medical and social challenges. They linked him to community supports, ensured his rent was paid, and sent in Meals on Wheels. A personal support worker helped him take medications and an ‘extreme clean’ service was sent in to clean his apartment. John had a stroke and died in September 2009 at age 81. He was buried next to the Korean War National Memorial outside Toronto.

Barbara B.
Barbara B., age 82, grew up four houses away from her future husband, Ross, and they married in their early 20s. They raised a family and lived on that same street until age 80, when Ross had to move to a nursing home after his leg was amputated in 2008.

Hating their separation, and now both needing wheelchairs, the couple moved to their son’s home where they received excellent home care support. Facing further medical and physical difficulties, and after desperately trying to find them a new family doctor willing to make home visits, a social worker referred them to House Calls in November 2008, and they greatly benefitted from ongoing interdisciplinary care at home.

Ross died in August 2009 from complications of diabetes and heart disease. In a portrait taken on a Sunday morning six weeks after his death, you see Barbara sick with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She was sitting in Ross’s chair.

Joseph L.
Joseph L., age 75, fell on the street one day, and a visit to a hospital emergency department triggered his referral to House Calls in 2009. The community occupational therapist who first visited Joseph at home noted that he had not seen his family doctor in several years, had no friends or supports and had lost touch with his family in the 1970s. Never having attended school, Joseph is illiterate. Neglected and malnourished when first treated, he regained his strength with daily lunches from Meals on Wheels.

In July 2009 Joseph received an eviction notice from his landlord. He was vulnerable and at high risk of homelessness, but a corrective plan was quickly enacted by the House Calls social worker. Eviction was averted, although his rent was increased. Joseph has now applied for subsidized senior’s housing, but the wait for a bachelor apartment is over five years.

Joyce A.
In 2006 a neighbour noticed that Joyce A., age 79, was not managing well due to memory problems and called a community support agency for help. Joyce had several untreated medical conditions, was not eating properly, and had stopped paying her bills. She attended an Adult Day Program where she benefited from social and recreational stimulation, and regular meals.

Increasingly vulnerable and at risk, Joyce moved in June 2007 to supportive-housing geared to cognitively impaired seniors. Her dementia progressed, and in May 2009 Joyce was admitted to a nursing home. In one final portrait she stared blankly ahead with barely a flicker of recognition. Joyce died that September at age 82.

About Dr. Mark Nowaczynski and the House Calls team:
Dr. Nowaczynski was born in Montreal in 1959 and was educated in Quebec, Singapore, Kinston (B.Sc.), Vancouver (Ph.D., M.D.) and Toronto (C.C.F.P.), where he now lives with his wife and two children. His life-long passion for documentary photography emerged when he was 16 years old. He won a scholarship to study in Singapore and was inspired to explore and photograph his surroundings in his free time.

Dr. Nowaczynski began practicing family medicine in 1992 when he noticed a marked lack of medical and supportive home care services for seniors. Understanding the need for change, he turned to photography in 1998 to document the hidden world of his house-bound patients as a means of addressing this significant social issue and to raise awareness about the needs of this vulnerable population. Many of the 36 images that will be on display have never been exhibited before.

Government policies in the province of Ontario shifted in the mid 90s and many of Dr. Nowaczynski’s vulnerable house-bound patients lost their home care services. Feeling unable to fight this and realizing the opportunity that photography presented as a compelling tool for advocacy and a stimulus for social change, in 1998 Dr. Nowaczysnki began to document his patients’ hidden world.

Dr. Mark Nowaczynski is the Clinical Director of House Calls: Interdisciplinary mobile team serving frail seniors. Based in a not-for-profit community support agency, this physician-led team includes a Social Worker, Occupational Therapist, and Nurse Practitioner, who provide ongoing home-based care to frail, vulnerable and marginalized seniors. House Calls began as a pilot project in 2007, and received full funding in 2009 from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care through the Government of Ontario’s Aging at Home Strategy.The House Calls team promotes aging in place and improves the health and quality of life of seniors by providing ongoing integrated home-based care.

Dr. Nowaczynski closed his office practice in 2007 an now makes house calls full time.

Other Information
House Calls with my Camera coincides with the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival that runs from May 1 to 31, 2010. The festival’s theme this year is ‘Pervasive Influence’, which explores the social and political consequences of the medium of photography, in a world devoted to the image.

The exhibition was curated by Kelvin Browne, the ROM’s Vice President, Marketing and Major Exhibitions, the panel text was written by Richard Lahey, Interpretive Planner at the ROM, and the exhibit design was created by Emilio Genovese, Exhibit Designer, ROM.

Admission to House Calls with my Camera is included with general Museum admission: Adults: $22; Students and Seniors with ID: $19; Children (4 to 14 years) $15; Children 3 and under are free. Half Price Friday Nights, presented by Sun Life Financial, take place from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. To book a group of ten or more, and for more information on private guided tours or group menus, please call ROM Group Sales at 416.586.5889 or email groupsales@rom.on.caFor more information to register, please visit www.rom.on.ca, or call ROM Programs at 416.586.5797.

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