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A Study of My Father and His Dementia


Images and text by Chris Jones


My father was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2009, although, looking back, there were signs as early as 2006. My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, also in 2009. Life began to get difficult for my parents quite rapidly and didn’t really ease until my father was admitted into residential care in November 2013. I was one of 5 siblings, my 3 brothers lived elsewhere in the UK and my sister had a full time career. I was and always have been self employed and so it came to pass, without much debate, that I took on most of the caring duties, as I could be called upon at any time and could adapt my work routine.


My father originally trained as a patternmaker before forging a career as a buyer in the car industry. Throughout his working life he used his practical skills for DIY projects at home and for family and friends. When he retired in 2000, he took on more DIY projects to supplement his income but also to fill his time. During his lifetime he accumulated many varied tools. Being self employed, I dabbled in DIY projects for family and friends and would occasionally help my father with projects. My father must have realised that I would have the most use for his tools and he would often say to me that he would like me to have his tools when he’s gone.


Being an artist for all of my working life requires ingenuity. Life becomes a balancing act between family, working for an income and creating meaningful art. As I progressed as an artist, I learnt that creating art from life experiences and work situations was, not only more time and cost effective, but also more satisfying. From the 1990’s, this way of working influenced my work more and more and can plainly be seen in ‘A Year of Front Pages’ (2004) when I created a sculptural installation piece from the leftover daily newspapers at the cafe (Silvanis) that my wife and I had opened, or in another sculptural piece called '73 Hordern Road’ (2018) where I collected and collated the discarded items that I found whilst digging up my garden for a landscaping project.


From an early point in my father’s illness, I realised that to document and create a piece about his dementia would help me to live through his demise and produce something at the end that may be of use in understanding the illness and give an insight into how it affects those who have to do the caring, as well as hopefully creating a legacy to my father. My father was a very good subject as any inhibitions about being photographed soon disappeared with his illness. I decided to use textual pieces as well as images to try and cover as many aspects of the illness and its impact in a general sense and on a personal level. To accompany the documentary side to the work, I decided to photograph his tools. This enabled me to explore other ideas such as the masculine desire to accumulate and technical advances and their environmental consequences, as well as the mammoth graphic exercise of piecing together 836 separate tool images into one image. An earlier smaller version of ‘My Dad’s Tools’ was exhibited at Glasgow Open House in 2014.The final larger version, along with the ’Tool Sets’, were completed early in 2017 , a few months after my father’s death.

A Study of My Father and His Dementia:

A Study of My Father and His Dementia: My Dad's Tools

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