Instead of complaining when his 93-year-old mom moved in, he got his camera.

Two years ago, Tony Luciani's mother Elia broke her hip. Soon thereafter, she was diagnosed with dementia — and found herself unable to live on her own.

Elia and Tony Luciani. All photos courtesy of Tony Luciani.


"I brought her [into my home], and around that time, I had purchased a new camera," Tony said.

The camera would need to be tested, and Elia's presence in the house gave Tony — a visual artist who had planned to use the camera to photograph his paintings — something he had never before sought: a human subject.

"I said, 'OK mom, you're a good model. Stay still.'"

What started as an attempt to learn the camera's buttons and dials turned into a massive project, spanning 21 months and 93 photos — many inspired by Elia's fading memories.

"My mom would remember things that happened 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 years ago," Tony said. "But she wouldn't remember things that happened five, 10 minutes ago. So in order to keep a conversation going, she would tell stories of what she knew."

Those stories became the basis for some of his photographs — playful, often haunting portraits that fuse Elia's past and current realities.

"I just thought it was a great way for me and her to connect while she was with me; otherwise, she'd just be sitting there and reading a magazine," he said.

Elia walks, tethered to a shadow.

"She was my caregiver as a kid, and now those roles have changed," Tony said.

At first, including his mother in the photography project was an attempt to help her feel productive, since Elia is no longer able to help with household tasks.

It quickly became clear that Elia was not only an evocative subject, but an eager and able collaborator.

"She's always been someone who participated and gave more than she received."

Elia pushes her walker.

Elia was born in Italy in 1923, and was married at the age of 13.

"She was 16 when she had her first son," Tony said. "So that image for me was the story of her when she was a young girl, being a mother at that age."

Elia holds up a mirror, containing a portrait of her as a young girl.

Elia looks through binoculars.

After immigrating to Canada in 1955, Elia worked as a seamstress in garment factory in Toronto, overseeing and training new hires — often immigrants themselves. Doing so required learning their languages: Spanish, French, German, Korean.

These days, she spends twice a week in a program with other seniors, where she often finds herself helping those who can't read.

"She likes that, only because she becomes the teacher again," Tony said.

Elia's face appears in portrait above her clothes.

Elia bursts through a portrait of her younger self.

Elia tries a rolling jump.

Despite her short-term memory loss, Elia remains physically active and enjoys getting out of the house when she can.

"She goes out and walks her route. She'll sit under a tree sometimes, or she'll sit on a park bench on her own," Tony said.

Elia combs her hair.

Elia and Tony hold hands.

Tony's transition to full-time caretaker has been lonely at times, but he considers the loss of independence a worthwhile trade for what he's gotten in return.

"I'm doing more work, and I'm not at the beach. I'm at the studio and I'm creating and I'm doing photographs," he said. "And with her here as my model, it's every artist's dream to have a model that I can call — and there she is."

Elia and Tony take an old-school selfie.

"She's become a real voice in my art," Tony said.

Beyond the art, Tony says that the project made him rethink his relationship with his mom.

"Here I thought, initially, I was going to be the brave guy and take her into my home, rather than shoving her into a nursing home or assisted living, and having my life disrupted and all that.

"But what I got out of it was more than I gave."

Most Shared
Facebook / Mikhail Galin

Putting your pet in cargo during a flight isn't always safe. In 2016, the Department of Transportation reported a total of 26 pet deaths and 22 injuries on flights. Because conditions in cargo can be uncomfortable for animals, the Humane Society recommends taking your pet aboard when you fly, or just leaving it at home.

It's not surprising that one Russian man didn't want to put his overweight cat in cargo during an eight-hour flight from Moscow to Vladivostok. What is surprising is the great lengths he took to fly with his four-legged friend.

Russian airline Aeroflot allows pets to fly inside the plane's cabin, as long as the cat weighs under 17.6 pounds and stays in its carrier during the flight. When Mikhail Galin went to check in, he was told he couldn't fly with his four-year old cat, Viktor. Viktor weighed in at 22 pounds and would have to be relegated to cargo.

But Viktor was sick from their earlier flight from Riga, Latvia to Moscow. And besides, Viktor had been allowed to fly inside the cabin during that flight. The airline staff didn't even bother to make Viktor sit on the scales. Galin was unable to persuade staff to bring his fur baby on board.

"To all attempts to explain that the cat won't survive there on an 8-hour flight with the baggage and would haunt her in her nightmares for the rest of her life, she (the Aeroflot staff member) replied that there are rules," Galin wrote in a Facebook post translated from Russian.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Photo by Kelvin Octa from Pexels

Newborn babies don't seem to do much beyond eating and pooping and, of course, hiccupping. A lot. Parenting advice on how to cure a baby's hiccups runs the whole gamut. It's recommended parents try everything from nursing to stop feeding the baby so much, from giving the baby gripe water to letting the hiccups play their course. But when your baby hiccups too much, you shouldn't freak out. There's a good reason why.

A new study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that hiccups play an important role in a baby's development. Researchers from the University College London found 217 babies for their study, but only looked at 13 newborns with persistent hiccups. Ten of those babies hiccupped when they were awake, and three hiccupped during their "wriggly" sleep. We have no idea how the scientists got any work done with all that cuteness lying around.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

Actress Kristen Bell and "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon showed off their vocal and comedic chops on Tuesday night when the performed a medley of 17 Disney songs, spanning nine decades, in just five minutes.

The duo started with 1940's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ended with 2013's "Let it Go" from "Frozen."

Bell will reprise her role as Anna in Disney's upcoming "Frozen 2."

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Ask almost any woman about a time a man said or did something sexually inappropriate to them, and she'll have a story or four to tell. According to a survey NPR published last year, 81% of women report having experienced sexual harassment, with verbal harassment being the most common. (By contrast, 43% of men report being sexually harassed. Naturally harassment toward anyone of any sex or gender is not okay, but women have been putting up with this ish unchecked for centuries.)

One form of verbal sexual harassment is the all too common sexist or sexual "joke." Ha ha ha, I'm going to say something explicit or demeaning about you and then we can all laugh about how hilarious it is. And I'll probably get away with it because you'll be too embarrassed to say anything, and if you do you'll be accused of being overly sensitive. Ha! Won't that be a hoot?

Keep Reading Show less
popular