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Patricia Lay-Dorsey


Photo of Patricia Lay-Dorsey

Patricia Lay-Dorsey

What do yopatricia lay-dorsey handsu do when you “get tired of the way nondisabled photographers portray the disabled as either heroic, pathetic or some mix of the two? If you are a photographer who happens to be disabled yourself, you pick up your camera and start taking pictures.” That’s what Patricia Lay-Dorsey, 68, of Detroit, did for 15 months in 2008 and ‘09.

Her photos turned out to be such a honest—and beautiful—look at MS, as well as aging, that well-regarded photographer David Alan Harvey featured her work on his Web site for emerging photographers and mentored her as she put together a book of self-portraits, Falling into Place. A selection of her photos was seen in 2009 in a New York Times feature.Patricia Lay Dorsey fall

She uses a variety of techniques to create her unusually intimate and unflinching images, including a self-timer. Of one photo, at right, taken after she had had a fall, she wrote, “Yes, my ribs are sore and I have scrapes on my knee, elbow and big toe, but dammit I got the shot. It is the best fall of my life.”

Patricia was diagnosed with primary progressive MS in September 1988. She was using a cane within a few years, then a walker and by 2000, a scooter. “My whole thing is to do whatever I need to do, to live my life how I want to live it. I’ll use any aid I need.”

A former marathon runner, for the first 12 years she had MS, she didn’t exercise. “I thought I couldn’t anymore,” she patricia lay dorsey bottlesays. When she finally made it back to the swimming pool, Patricia was shocked to find she couldn’t swim a stroke. Inactivity had gone MS one better. “I took water aerobics, and by the end of the first summer I could swim two lengths. Now, on a good day, I can do 72—a mile. I feel very healthy even though I can’t walk worth a darn.” She also has developed her biceps in twice-weekly workouts with a trainer at the gym. She shows them off with the armband tattoo of a globe with green vines that she got on her birthday four years ago.patricia lay dorsey snow

“It happens that I live with a disability, so that’s part of what’s in my self-portraits,” Patricia concludes. “It may be a little different from most people’s lives, but it’s still just life. And a full life at that.”

View more of Patricia's photos at


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