So many stories are told of persons with disabilities from the outside looking in. Often portrayed as tragic and/or brave, it is easy to lose sight of our common humanity. We are seen as other. Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1988, I have resisted and resented this attitude whenever I encounter it in person, print or online. In June 2008 I started taking self portraits with the intention of showing from the inside the day-to-day life of a person with a disability; that person being myself.
What I thought would be most challenging--the physical act of taking self portraits--was surprisingly easy. What I had not taken into account was the emotional roller coaster I would ride in the process. As subject, I was surprised by my feelings of shame and "otherness." As photographer, my differences were interesting rather than shameful. As viewer of the photos, I saw how hard my body works to do what I ask of it. If anyone had to change their attitude, it was I.
They Call Me Grandma Techno
I have attended Detroit's 3-day electronic music festival--known as DEMF and/or Movement Detroit--since 2005. That may not seem unusual for a lover of EM except for the fact that I celebrated my 70th birthday in 2012, am disabled and get around in a mobility scooter. As you can see from these photos, I am always right in the middle of the action, dancing, snapping photos and generally having the time of my life. They call me Grandma Techno and I call them WONDERFUL!!!
Just Another Married Couple
In May 2008 the California State Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental right protected by the state constitution and cannot be banned based on sexual orientation. Following that ruling, tens of thousands of same sex couples were married in California. Then in the November 2008 state elections, California voters passed Proposition 8, a ballot proposal and amendment to the state constitution that states "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." After years of legal appeals, on March 26, 2013 the United States Supreme Court heard lawyers Theodore Olson and David Bois argue the Hollingsworth v. Perry case that challenges the constitutionality of Prop 8. They maintain that by denying gay couples the right to marry, Proposition 8 violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause. The justices' ruling on this case is expected in June 2013.
While all the legal challenges, both pro and con, receive international attention, the lives of those most affected are often hidden from view. One such couple are my longtime friends, Phil Ouellette and Scott Weldon. They were married in San Diego, California on August 6, 2008 during the 20 weeks that same sex marriages were legal. Phil and Scott had been together as a couple since April 3, 1988. For two weeks in February 2010, they opened their home and hearts to me and my camera. This is their story.
Photography allows me to engage with people in deep and intimate ways. No one is a stranger. When I look through the lens, I see the wonder of each individual, of each moment. Barriers break down and time no longer exists. The photos themselves are not important; it is all about that split second when my subject and I become one. Even self portraits can connect us to ourselves.
Digital photography suits my intuitive nature. I cannot stop to think about the process or even the product, but must be free to shoot as unselfconsciously as I breathe. Of course, it helps that I studied art in college and was a painter for 30 years before picking up a camera. The fundamentals of composition, form, value and color are encoded in my creative DNA, while the technical aspects of photography will always be a mystery.
Born in Washington, DC in 1942, Patricia Lay-Dorsey brings her training as a social worker and decades as a visual artist to her work as a photographer. She is all about seeing herself and others from an insider’s point of view.
Patricia’s self portrait project, "Falling Into Place," took 1st prize in the Emotions category of the 2013 Photo Annual Awards in Prague and is currently on exhibit in Teplic, Czech Republic. In 2010 it was awarded 3rd prize in the FotoVisura Grant for Outstanding Personal Photography Project.
“Falling Into Place” has been featured in print in Newsweek Japan and New Mobility magazines, and online on the New York Times Lens blog, ABC News, CBS News, The Daily Mail (London), Slate Magazine's Behold blog, Visura Magazine, Burn Magazine, PDN Photo of the Day, Fototazo, Lenscratch and in Catherine Edelman's The Chicago Project. An image from this project was included in the 2011 Beauty CULTure exhibit at The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, and appeared in Lauren Greenfield's "Beauty CULTure" documentary film. Patricia was a finalist in Photolucida’s Critical Mass 2012.
Fotofest Biennial 2012 Meeting Place portfolio reviews led to Patricia having solo exhibits of "Falling Into Place" at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA (January 17-March 3, 2013), and at Fovea Exhibitions in Beacon, NY (April 13-July 7, 2013).
"Falling Into Place: self portraits," the book, was published in November 2013 by Ffotogallery in Cardiff, Wales. Copies of the book are available for sale at the International Center of Photography (ICP) bookstore in NYC, Fovea Exhibitions in Beacon, NY and online on Amazon.com
Patricia’s photographs have been exhibited in print and/or slides in Detroit (including the solo exhibit, “Active Elders” at the Ellen Kayrod Gallery in March 2009), Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Washington, DC, Toronto, Beijing and Helsinki. In 2008, Patricia was the Detroit location scout for Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim‘s documentary film, “It Might Get Loud.” That same year her project, “Dualities,” was published as a Bonus Portfolio by LensWork. In 2011, the American-Journal featured “Just Another Married Couple,” Patricia’s intimate portrait of a same sex couple in post-Proposition 8 California.
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