‘I can remember photographing Kylie but not what I did this morning’

Pop star Prince
Image caption,Jason Scott Tilley photographed Prince and other celebrities

By Vanessa Pearce

BBC News, West Midlands

A celebrated photographer has used his own archive to help preserve past memories and create future ones following a diagnosis of dementia.

Using his images as prompts, Jason Scott Tilley can vividly recall details of covering local and international news stories, as well as capturing celebrities and trips to India exploring his Anglo-Indian heritage.

But, he says he struggles to remember what he has done that morning.

At Christmas in 2020, the 55-year-old suffered a series of mini strokes, which had an impact on his short-term memory.

Girl with camel
Image caption,The photographer’s collection includes portraits of people he encountered on trips to India

“I had two TIAs – transient ischaemic attacks – and have been diagnosed with vascular dementia,” he said.

“My friends all take the mickey,” he joked. “They say, ‘That’s the name of one thing you can always remember'”.

Kylie Minogue
Image caption,The photographer remembers photographing Kylie Minogue, but struggles with new memories

Some basic tasks became more difficult after the strokes. He explained: “I just had to call home to ask my mum if I’d taken my tablets today.”

He described feeling “terrified” about losing the ability to develop photographs, but added that with support he has started exploring the practice again.

Image caption,He captured animal rights protesters campaigning in Baginton, Warwickshire

Arts Council England (ACE) funding has enabled him to put his archive in order, using the photographs to “help build new memories,” said friend and collaborator Dr Ben Kyneswood.

The project, with Coventry organisation Art Riot Collective (ARC), will also see him collaborate with eight other neurodiverse artists – who will respond to his photographs resulting in associated exhibitions next year.

The commission was “really important” added Mr Tilley. “It’s something I really needed to do after the diagnosis”.

The artist, whose work has been exhibited in the city, with some preserved in the Coventry and Birmingham archives, said he had been inspired to take up photography by his grandfather, Bert Scott.

Mr Scott worked for the Times of India throughout the 1930s and 40s, https://sisipkan.com/ documenting the country as the British government devolved power resulting in partition, in 1947.

On 14 August that year, he was in place to capture an image of the moment Lord and Lady Mountbatten walked down the steps in New Delhi, ceremonially leaving India and signalling the end of the British Empire, Mr Tilley explained.

Bert Scott
Image caption,Bert Scott worked as a photographer at the Times of India before fleeing to Coventry during partition

Mr Scott and his wife Dolly were forced to flee the country in the wake of partition, along with their two daughters, eventually settling in Coventry.

“I grew up looking towards my grandpa’s photographic albums when I was really young and that’s what inspired me to make photographic memories for the future,” Mr Tilley said.

The photographer learned his trade firstly on a Youth Training Scheme (YTS), before he moved on to work with local newspapers the Coventry Citizen and Coventry Evening Telegraph.

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