The Tools

Tools 01 Tools 02 Tools 03 Tools 04 Tools 05 Tools 06

My father, Graham Swaffer Barnard (1915-2005), at various points in my life, gave me tools for woodwork, decorating and household repairs. These tools were from his own collection. Sometimes he decided he could spare a duplicate, and would give me one that I needed for a particular purpose. Later though, as he grew older, he offered me his remaining tools, a few at a time, whenever he decided that he wouldn't be needing them any longer.

I have no idea how my father accumulated his tools. Perhaps he bought them himself as a young man, or maybe he inherited them from his own father. Presumably the spirit-level could be dated with some accuracy, but the nail extracting tool has a timeless strength that could derive from any period since the industrial revolution.

They are just simple, working tools, but all impress me with the unelaborate functionality of their design and the enduring soundness of their construction. They have clearly been used for decades, but show absolutely no signs of wearing out.

Some have strong associations with my childhood. I have a sense of how they felt in my hand as a boy. I remember how my father would tell me what they were called and would show me how they were used.

In 2004, I photographed some of the tools. I find the physical objects themselves very engaging, but the photographs are also about the skills my father taught me, which I bring to bear whenever I use the tools.