Parkinson's is a progressive neurological condition which affects about 145,000 people in the UK, yet little is known about this devastating illness. Laura Hanton chats to Beth Gregory, who has created a photography series based around Parkinson's sufferer, Wendy.

A STUDENT from Charminster has captured the reality of life with Parkinson's through a powerful collection of photographs.

Beth Gregory, 21, has worked at Wolfeton Manor Care Home in Charminster alongside her studies for the past six years. Now entering her third year at Falmouth University, where she studies press and editorial photography, Beth returns to work in the care home during university holidays.

It was at Wolfeton Manor that Beth struck up a friendship with Wendy, 75, a patient with Parkinson's.

"I had known Wendy since I was a child," Beth explains. "She lived down the road and sometimes took our school assemblies. We quickly developed a good relationship; she was someone I could always have a good chat with."

Yet working at the care home on and off meant Beth could see how Wendy's condition deteriorated with every visit.

"It affected her balance, her movement, her speech, and her mood, too," Beth recalls. "She knew what was happening and she was quite embarrassed when she made mistakes. I think it helped her having someone to talk to."

With no family in the area and only a few friends in the village, Wendy's relationship with Beth grew stronger as time went on, and she began to share more about her past and current lifestyle.

"It's hard to watch someone decline, especially when you knew them before the diagnosis," Beth comments. "I could see that some days were harder than others, and that things could change in a moment."

Always interested in portraying different qualities of life, Beth's photography series was born out of a desire to help people understand more about Parkinson's, which affects about one in 350 adults in the UK.

"It's a disease which doesn't seem to get much coverage," Beth says. "It often leads to other conditions, like depression and anxiety, and once you're diagnosed, it's a decline from there. There's no way to prevent it, and there's no cure."

Beth began taking photos of Wendy at moments which she felt captured the reality and vulnerability of the illness.

"She loved being photographed," Beth recalls. "Her husband had been a photographer so she was used to having a camera in her direction. She always joked about being hounded by paparazzi."

None of the pictures were planned or staged, with about half taken when Wendy was completely unaware. Each image is captioned by Wendy's own words, including one which says: "Parkinson's takes up a lot of time. Time to understand. To cope with. To live with. And to be around. It is exhausting for everyone."

According to Beth, the public reaction to her project has been amazing: "So many people have been talking to me about someone they knew or know who had Parkinson's. It's a devastating illness and deserves a lot more awareness."

Beth has been collaborating with Parkinson's UK, a charity working towards better care, treatments and quality of life for sufferers and their families. The organisation has been developing an online exhibition which intends to depict the reality of the disease, and Beth's project will be the first in the series to be published.

Meanwhile, Beth intends to continue photographing Wendy and see where it goes.

"Whenever I'm home, I always pop in and see her," Beth says. "She recently told me her final wish would be to ride a horse again. She owned one her whole life, but her diagnosis meant she could no longer care for her beloved Chestnut. Sue, from Chesil Equestrian on Portland, helped me fulfil Wendy's wish!"

To view Beth's photography project in full, visit


Parkinson's develops when the cells in the brain, which produce the chemical dopamine, stop working properly and are lost over time. Symptoms start to appear when the brain can't make enough dopamine to control movement properly. There are three main symptoms: tremor, or shaking; slowness of movement; and rigidity, or muscle stiffness.

Why people get Parkinson's is still unknown, but researchers think it's a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although there is no cure, there are many ways to manage ongoing symptoms and cope with the challenges of life with Parkinson’s. For further information or support, visit