Son's Photos Capture 'Vibrant' Spirit of His 93-Year-Old Mother

PHOTO: Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia. Courtesy Tony Luciani
Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia.

The role reversal between parent and child is never easy -- a truth Toronto-based painter Tony Luciani can attest to. But he and his elderly mother, Elia, have managed to find the beauty in it, and capture it through photography.

Elia, 93, has been caring for her children since she first became a mother at age 16. But recently, she became unable to care for herself.

After Elia broke her hip and began developing dementia, her family considered placing her in a nursing home or assisted living.

“But she was still vibrant and alive,” Luciani told ABC News of his mother at that time. “I could not see my mom in a place like that, so I said, ‘Well, she can live with me.’”

PHOTO: Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia.Courtesy Tony Luciani
Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia.

Around that same time, the artist also purchased a camera with the intention of shooting reference photos for his paintings.

Luciani asked his mother to pose for him. To his surprise, she really enjoyed it.

He decided, as a personal project, he would continue photographing his mother and create a photo diary for her.

PHOTO: Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia.Courtesy Tony Luciani
Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia.

“She felt kind of useless, and I didn’t want her to feel like she wasn’t wanted anymore,” Luciani said. “So I started including her in my art, and I noticed how vibrant she became while posing for me.”

In front of the camera, Luciani said his mother “changes completely from someone who sits there just staring at the ceilings sometimes, to someone who’s just having a blast.”

PHOTO: Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia. Courtesy Tony Luciani
Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia.

“It makes me feel better to know that I’m giving her some spark in her life again,” he added.

PHOTO: Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia. Courtesy Tony Luciani
Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia.

As an amateur photographer, Luciani posted the photos online for some feedback.

Two years later, he is just one week away from the opening of his exhibition at the Loch Gallery in Toronto, which will feature the stunning photographs and two paintings of his mother.

Though the photos began as something personal, Luciani notes their universality.

PHOTO: Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia. Courtesy Tony Luciani
Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia.

“It’s gotten to a point where they’re not really about her anymore, they’re about people like her,” Luciani said.

The project has also had an incredible impact on Luciani’s relationship with his mother.

PHOTO: Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia. Courtesy Tony Luciani
Artist Tony Luciani photographs his 93-year-old mother, Elia, who suffers from dementia.

“I thought I was doing my duty and it was my turn to give back,” he said. “Ultimately I realized that she’s giving me back so much more than I’ve been able to give her. Yes I do look after her, but she’s given me another outlet with photography. It’s a wonderful thing.”

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