Swan Thumb


Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints. The main symptoms are joint pain and swelling. It’s the second most common form of arthritis in the UK.

This story documents Janet, 78, a woman affected by severe Rheumatoid Arthritis since the age of 23.

Years ago while at a clinic, a doctor had a group of medical students with him and asked to examine Janet. They gathered around her, fascinated as her case is rare due to its severity. The doctor described Janet's thumb as a 'Swan Thumb' because of the way it looked. This name has stuck with her ever since.

I myself am fascinated by the way this condition has affected her whole body physically. Janet is my Gran, I have always known her and this has allowed me incredible access into her life. She is a particularly guarded person who gets very depressed about how her Arthritis has affected her. I have been photographing her more and more for the past few years to get her used to the camera. She has told me that as long as she doesn't have to see the images that I'm ok to take them. I had to finish the project when Ian, her husband and my Grandad, showed her the images. This made her quite depressed for a few days. She now says that she doesn't want any more personal photographs taken.

Information reproduced by permission of Rheumatoid Arthritis Research UK