Medical Research

Photographer with MS Chronicles Her Personal Journey

The Effects of MS in Images

If photography is your passion in life, even MS won’t weaken your desire to tell stories in pictures. Especially if it’s your own story. You go into it knowing there are thousands of individuals who can relate.

Meet Patricia Lay-Dorsey who, at the age of 45 in 1988, experienced a sudden fall that led to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Patricia is a photographer known around her Detroit neighborhood as “Grandma Techno,” due to her fondness for techno-industrial music, which is unique to people in her age group. The photographer, who uses a mobility scooter, has chosen to unveil a series of self-portraits which illustrate her daily life, taken over a period of twenty years after her MS diagnosis.

“At the time I started working on this project,” she says, “I was an online participant on “Road Trips,” an interactive blog run by the Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey. Just two weeks into the project, I posted a link to my first 12 self-portraits. Since the photographs were primarily of me showering and getting dressed, I called it ‘My Morning Toilette.'”

David saw the photographs and volunteered to mentor Patricia in the production of a book based on the photographs. Over the next few months, she took the photographs for viewing at a workshop at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, where other respected photographers, including Mary Ellen Mark, praised the portraits and encouraged her to pursue the project further.

“Of course, at the start the self-portraits I chose to take were not particularly discomforting for me to see,” Patricia says. “But as time went on I dropped deeper and deeper into my life experiences. It was then that the images forced me to look at things I had not looked at before.”

The six-year project has come to an end, at least for now. Patricia says that she still occasionally takes self-portraits but isn’t looking to increase her body of work at this time. She feels that the existing photos tell the story she set out to tell and have progressed from a simple photography project to a vehicle for discussion and awareness of the struggles of people with disabilities.

Patricia’s book, Falling into Place, is currently available, and her work will be featured from August 23 through September 20 at the Swords into Plowshares Gallery and Peace Center in Detroit. Hear Patricia tell her story in the video below. What’s your reaction to this intimate portrait of a woman living with multiple sclerosis?


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