My Coolpix and I
January 26 - March 21, 2017
When Tony Luciani gave his mother a Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot camera, he challenged Elia, a first-time photographer at age 92, to capture at least ten images per day of her new living environment. He also set up her own Facebook page and shared her images on the social network. In contrast to Tony’s photographs which are idea based, inventive and concept driven, Elia’s shots are those of a discoverer who acts perceptually. Her first series of photographs focused on seeing what’s in and around her new home through the camera lens: the inside of a fridge, memorabilia brought from her home in Toronto, rows of porcelain cups on a kitchen shelf, Tony’s extensive video library, … each photograph titled in Italian. Together these images create a subtle dialogue between the past and the present. In the spring of 2015 Elia had her first “One Old Woman Show” at Durham’s Chicory Common Café where several of her photographs found buyers and a new home.
With the invitation to show her work at the Durham Art Gallery, Elia started her next project. This time she turned the camera towards the exterior, scenes that caught her attention while moving around town on her walker. The resulting images make up most of her work on display in this show and feature interesting portraits of a small town’s charm that she captured during her routine walks.
One of the most striking and haunting shots in the series is a close-up of an old, broken window in an abandoned building. Elia, looking through her camera, is inadvertently reflected in some of the dirty glass panes. Initially she thought she made a mistake by revealing her own face in the image. The unexpected composition of this image has an ethereal, dream-like quality that evokes thoughts and feelings about the fragility of memory, its presence and its absence.
Elia Luciani was born January 30, 1923 in Carrufo, a tiny Italian mountain village, about 170 kilometers north-east of Rome. At age 13 she was married off by proxy to a 26 year old man, who was in the Italian army, stationed in Africa. Two years later she met her husband the first time, when he as quarantined in an Italian hospital for malaria. Her first two sons were born in Italy. In 1955 they immigrated to Toronto to join Elia’s husband. A year later her son Tony was born.