Hester Jones is a British artist trained on Westminster Arts’ innovative arts programme Resonate to help improve the lives of people living with dementia through the arts. She is fortunate to have the most wonderful and inspiring manager and mentor Kathryn Gilfoy and to have been trained and worked with five inspirational artists: Seiwa Cunningham, David Little, Cate Cordon, Jo McCormick, and Hannah Dawes. On Resonate she has had training and guidance from other great practitioners in the field of dementia including David Clegg and Jude Sweeting.
Hester graduated from Pg Cert: Photography at Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design in 2007 then MA Photography at London College of Communication 2009 University of the Arts London. She has developed a strong track record delivering participatory photography projects. Her work is an ongoing investigation into culturally constructed gendered identities, inspired by the performative and participatory qualities of photography. She is becoming increasingly focused on Sci-Art projects that deal with mental health issues. She has exhibited and published in the UK and abroad and won various prizes for her work. Please visit her website for CV and portfolio.
In summer 2012 Hester worked with Arts4Dementia to lead 8 weekly photography workshops at Photographer’s Gallery London for people diagnosed with early stage dementia and their carers: this was a life changing experience for all the participants involved and made possible by the kind help of brilliant photographers who volunteered – Liz Orton, Tracey McEachran, Rhona Clewes and Stephanie Cheong. Hester was also the photographer of other A4D art workshops in the London Inspire Challange taking place at Dulwich Picture Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Wallace Collection, Cadogan Hall, Prince of Wales Theatre, The Angel Boat, Kenwood House, Leighton House, Green Candle Dance Company and Putney Library; witnessing first hand the enormous benefits of arts participation for people who are living with dementia.
It has been demonstrated that by participating in the arts, people living with dementia can live a more enriched and fulfilling life, with relief from confusion and anxiety. The creative part of the brain remains intact right until the later stages of the disease. It is this link between the hands, the brain and the creative act that is pertinent to this site of research largely inspired also by the work of Raymond Tallis; first and foremost his trilogy Handkind. Hester is currently developing new participatory artwork, using the mediums of photography and film, in relation to the work of Tallis. This work explores identity, the aging brain, and neurological rehabilitation, and seeks to open up and explore new channels for communication through the hands, the brain and creative acts; to improve well-being for people who are living with dementia.
In 2012 Hester Jones realized an artist residency in a London Care UK home with over 30 participants living with dementia and other mental health needs, that culminated in a book of photographic portraits of each participant’s hands with their collated life stories and images exhibited at the home. The project included hand reflexoloy with Faye Penford, a trained reflexologist, which proved to be a calming and therapeutic way to help engage with each person. The project was led by Westminster Arts, supported by Arts Council England, City of Westminster and Westminster NHS.
Scientific studies have demonstrated there are more nerve connectors between the brain and the hands than any other part of the human body. Human beings subconsciously express many emotions, thoughts and feelings with their hands, such as love, anger, stress, fear or affection.
What is so unique to the human species is that we not only use our hands to communicate and express ourselves, but to perform such a variety of daily tasks: such as preparing food, cleaning, dressing ourselves, and brushing our teeth. Or to create works of art, drive vehicles, write letters, build houses, perform brain surgery, and play musical instruments. We use them to care for our loved ones, both young and old, or defend ourselves from an attacker. But in the words of one 93 year old participant,
“We take our hands for granted.”
Raymond Tallis in part one of his trilogy ‘Handkind’ – The Hand: A Philosophical Inquiry into Human Being, sums up the hand perfectly –
“This hand – this professor of grasping, seizing, pulling, plucking, picking, pinching, pressing, patting, poking, prodding, fumbling, squeezing, crushing, throttling, punching, rubbing, scratching, groping, stroking, caressing, fingering, drumming, shaping, lifting, flicking, catching, throwing and much else besides – is the master tool of human life.”