Creative Matters

Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man (2016-2018)




Storytelling, Documentary Photography, Documentary Artwork, Environmental Portrait, Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Memory Loss, Art & Aging, Artist, Photography & Life Writing, Life Portrait, Life Story, Visual Portrait, ArtDoc


In Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man Mirja Maria Thiel tells the life of Fritz Dressler (1937-2020), a former professional photographer and university professor, who suffered from Alzheimer’s the last years of his life. Photographed over the course of more than two years, the black and white series is completely committed to the emotional reality of the charismatic protagonist. Dressler found immense pleasure and pride in himself by falling back on taking pictures himself. Adding some of his longing color images of his immediate surroundings, above all landscape and cloud images, as well as quotes by him gives the affected protagonist a voice and transforms this series into some kind of collaborative narrative which it has been in so many ways. The work intends to inspire a compassionate dialogue in society about issues concerning more respect, participation and empowerment towards people affected with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Author Biography

Mirja Maria Thiel

Born in Hamburg in 1971, Mirja is a German photographer whose approach to photography is rooted in her fascination for storytelling as a means of rising to challenge, living with change and showing compassion with humanity’s and her own vulnerability. Originally, she completed a Master of Arts in literature and linguistics to become an editor in a publishing house. Later, while rediscovering her delight in photography by documenting her young children, she decided to study ‘Photojournalism and Documentary Photography’ in Hanover, Germany. As a visual author Mirja feels indebted to the documentary tradition and concentrates on personal projects mostly situated in her neighborhood. So far, her long-term work focuses on the elderly: the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on the emotional landscape of caregivers and on the affected individual alike, as well as the exploration of eroticism in old age couples. She lives with her husband and their three children close to Bremen in Northern Germany.





Creative Matters