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."

For many people, seeing any animal in captivity is a tragic sight. But when an animal cannot safely be released into the wild, a captive-but-comfortable space is the next best thing.

That's the situation for a dozen female pachyderms who have joined the Yulee refuge at the White Oak Conservation Center north of Jacksonville, Florida. The Asian elephants, who are endangered in the wild, are former circus animals that were retired from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 2016. The group includes two sets of full sisters and several half-sisters. Elephants tend to live together in multi-generational family groups led by a matriarch.

Philanthropists Mark and Kimbra Walter, who fund the refuge for rare species, say they are "thrilled to give these elephants a place to wander and explore."

"We are working to protect wild animals in their native habitats," the Walters said in a statement. "But for these elephants that can't be released, we are pleased to give them a place where they can live comfortably for the rest of their lives."

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Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

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Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

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