Topics: Ethical Living, Jan./Feb. 2021 | Culture

Photographer aims to capture strength of young caregivers

Max Alexander says his own experience as a carer gave him the resources to empathize with others

Danielle*, 15, with her sister's service dog, Flare: “Being a young carer is a very stressful life. I often have to miss things that most kids enjoy, like birthday parties, hangouts and school. Maintaining friendships can be complicated as many of my friends don’t understand.” (Photo: Max Alexander)

Growing up with a mother who had schizophrenia, Max Alexander had first-hand experience as a young carer. “It gave me the resources to empathize, to be responsive to people,” he says. “This has been hugely important for my photography.”

Years later, Alexander has captured images of young caregivers around the world for his photo exhibit Hidden. In Canada, he partnered with Hospice Toronto’s Young Carers Program to photograph youth in the city who are helping to look after their family members with chronic illnesses, disabilities, addictions or other challenges.

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Alexander understands that the young carers’ circumstances can be difficult, but he also sees their strength and resili­ence, which he tries to demonstrate in his photos. “Hear their story, listen to what they have to say, show respect,” he says of his subjects. “And support them in any way you can.”

*The photographer uses first names only to protect his subjects’ privacy.

Samiha, 18: “If people just knew what a young carer was, you could just say ‘I’m a young carer’ and not have to tell your life story every single time.”
Ethan, 16: “[Caring for my sister] has been a blessing. It’s given me lots of skills and qualities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. The increased responsibil­ities give me an advantage, a head start, and make me ready for anything.”
Isabella, 16, with her brother Nicky: “We like to watch movies together. He loves Toy Story, so we usually watch that. It’s our favourite thing to do together. I feel like I naturally care for people. Since I have Nicky, it’s really become a part of who I am. I want to help people.”
Petie, 6: “Sometimes I’ll play ball with my sister [Bella], but she doesn’t know how to aim or kick it hard, so I’ll help her with that….I give Bella toys and help her up when she falls down….She tells me what she needs by using her iPad.”

This photo essay first appeared in Broadview’s January/February 2021 issue.

Max Alexander is a photographer based in London and Madrid.


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