Through the mind’s eye 

16 February 2024 Related Tags
By Graeme Roger Visual Artist

As one of Luminate’s ‘Arts in Care’ artists I spent one-to-one time with residents in three Highlands care homes: Andersons in Elgin, Whinnieknowe in Nairn and Highview in Inverness.   

I used both polaroid and digital cameras to document the immediate surroundings and ventured further afield based upon the interests of the people taking part. I decided to work more closely with individuals instead of workshops to allow more time to get to know people and have conversations and make friendships in a much more grounded way. 

A common thread in all the care homes was that people really enjoyed the edit process, cropping, adjusting colour and exposure. Having the power and means to make their own creative decisions was a clear and a very natural part of the process. 


I spent some sunny afternoons at Whinnieknowe (with activities co-ordinator Sarah Butters) where we initially adopted a drop-in approach. I would ‘hang out’ in the conservatory or in the outside seating area where residents could suss me out before deciding if they wanted to take part. This resulted in some beautiful digital and polaroid imagery including portraits and still lives.  

Simon was one of my early participants. I visited him four times over a few months and he was keen to show me a vintage camera that he had in his room. We decided to find some film for it and see what the camera could do.  We had two spools, the first was used at Whinnieknowe as a test spool where Simon took portraits of residents, we then did a road trip in the surrounding area with the second spool. The photographs he captured are both atmospheric and beautiful. 

Simon had worked as a technical author, but also enjoyed taking things apart to see how they worked. He said it was his father’s fault for giving him a mechano set in 1946.

I enjoyed actually taking photographs, I didn’t realise quite how much I enjoyed that.  Normally I take snaps, rather than photographs, I use my phone for photos nowadays because it’s so easy. [This though is] a VPK - vest pocket kodak ... it’s a second hand camera ... I would think 1963 is the last time I’ve used it. 

Simon, Whinnieknowe care home


My visits to Anderson’s Care Home in Elgin were based around the experience of taking photographs as a way of documenting the environment and stimulating conversation with the people who live there.  Initial visits included spending an afternoon with Sara in the gardens taking photographs (she said she had never used a camera before) and we chatted about plants, gardens, dancing and cooking.  Sara selected her favourite image taken on a beautiful July afternoon in the sunshine, which she edited. 

I share an interest in local history and architecture with Ian which meant it was easy for us to find topics to relate to. Ian was an Elder at the church for 30 years, ‘looking after the fabric of the building and fundraising’ and hadn’t been to St Giles in Elgin since before the pandemic. It is a short distance from Andersons, so we went along for an afternoon as a chance for Ian to reflect on his time there and to hear more detail about his favourite features of the building and some stories about the maintenance and upkeep.  

Andersons was also a source of history itself, having been a care home since 1815. Long-serving staff member Joan Cowe joined us, showing us things that had been found stashed around the building, including architects’ drawings, a gramophone and letter press among other unusual finds. 

It was a treat to know that staff saw Ian blossom through my creative programme, particularly the opportunity to visit a building that was an important part of his life.


At Highview in Inverness the focus of the sessions was with Ronnie, a retired policeman and member of mountain rescue teams on Skye. Ronnie’s interest lay in landscape photography and so after initial test images in the gardens (Ronnie was keen on digital only) we went to take shots of the Kessock bridge and Caledonian Canal before doing some test drone shots from the gardens at Highview.   

 As the images on this page show, photography was a creative tool that opened up so many different stories and perspectives through the Arts in Care programme.

Ronnie, a retired policeman, was keen to explore the way drone photography worked.