The Tool Project

I began working on a project about my father’s garage and his tools. During this project, I photographed the things in his garage as still life’s. This is a memorial to his life. I also wrote text about my experiences surrounding the selling of his life’s collection after his death. It was so personal, and it was about healing, It was really a document of how I remember him most. But I won’t share that here. Instead, let me share a bit about the process of making this project.

Tool image by Donna DufaultI gathered up a few things from my dad’s garage, mostly tools. I piled them into buckets and crates. I lugged them home, where I would feel the metal and weight. I’d thump the tools together to make noise. I’d play with these metal things, realizing I did not know what their real purpose was. But I knew what purpose they would serve me, knowing that I needed them to create photographs and memories.

When I share these photos with people I like to simply say; “Here were some of my dad’s things. See how he engraved his name on some of these tools. That’s his handwriting. That’s what his handwriting looked like. And this is my memory, my tribute to what he left behind. I don’t pretend to know what these things are, or see them as tools — they’re tools I’ll never need.”

But see these photos, their content, and I see my little joy. See how these images can bring comfort to my mind. Conjure memories, even smells of welding, grease, and grime. Days with dad in his garage.

I only wish I had a picture of his hands. The real tools. But my memory does have those captured even if scraps of film do not. Some things should be kept there and not shared with you. Those hands — thick, callused and forever dirty. Those hands, I see them in a photograph in my mind.