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Patricia Lay-Dorsey

Falling Into Place

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Self portraits are strange animals. For most photographers being at the wrong end of the lens is not our first choice. Besides wasn’t it Narcissus who was so mesmerized by his own reflection in the pond that he forgot to eat and pined away and died? Too much self-absorption can be dangerous.

But there can come a time when the only person who can tell your story is yourself.

That’s where I was when I started this self portrait project six months ago. I call this essay “Falling Into Place” because, in some strange way, I feel this IS my place, to see the world waist-high rather than face-to-face. Besides, it all started with a fall, a knee-buckling ankle-spraining fall onto an unyielding sidewalk one cold January day.

After the fifth unexplained fall in six months, I saw a neurologist who put me through a series of tests. Two months later he gave me a “75% certain” diagnosis of chronic progressive multiple sclerosis. Within the year he’d changed it to 100%.

Twenty years later I wonder who I’d be and what I’d be doing were it not for this unexpected assault on my body. I’m not going to say I’m glad it happened. Sure I’d love to be able to run another marathon, or bike another 200-mile weekend tour, or even open a flip-top can by myself. It’s a real pain to take a half hour to change into my swimsuit, to wet my dress because I couldn’t make it to the toilet in time, to ask for help opening every door that pulls rather than pushes. And more. Much more. Being disabled can really suck.

And it can teach too. Patience, humility, determination, even gratitude. How much I appreciate small things like being able to pick up my camera’s memory card when I drop it (again and again) on the floor. How proud I was last August when I drove by myself the 1300 miles to and from New York City. How pleased I am that my claw-like fingers can still hit the shutter release button.

So much of what I show in these portraits is private, the side of my life that no one sees. Until now, that is. And the strange thing about opening my bedroom, my bathroom, my nakedness to view is that my former sense of shame and embarrassment  is gone.

I now see my life as a disabled woman is normal in its own way.

-Patricia Lay-Dorsey


144 thoughts on “patricia lay-dorsey – falling into place”

  1. Wow, Patricia… Words and images that go directly to the soul. I’m impressed and touched. Your energy, your courage, your will, your determination, your happiness, your acceptance, your teaching, your private moments, your sharing, your images… You’re big, as well as your essay. I’m really proud of having meeting you, even if it is just a virtual thing. Oh yes, as Panos, I will watch it again and again.
    Thank you, Patricia.

  2. Hi Patricia,

    it’s great to see this final selection with the Beatles’ soundtrack: it rocks!
    I know that you are still shooting for the project in next months, so some small refinements can be introduced in this selection too… for example the picture of the book on the seat: at first sight I missed the cover and the smart link with the image that follows, just a little bit more prominence to the book’s cover should help. And I’m still missing the meaning of the shot in the coffee house… But these are just small things, again this essay is an effective glance into your life and the light is magic. thank you!

  3. WOW ! Pat, I’ve just watched it twice and am absoluteley blown away by what you have accomplished so far , I loved the dead bird pic , the Norman Rockwellesque portrait of you as a younger Pat and the teaming of the running photo and your hand on your old bike really hit home.
    Great work Aunty!



    Stiller Freund der vielen Fernen, fühle
    wie dein Atem noch den Raum vermehrt.
    Im Gebalk der finstern Glockenstühle
    laß dich läuten. Das, was an dir zehrt,

    wird ein Starkes über dieser Nahrung.
    Geh in der Verwandlung aus und ein.
    Was ist deine leidenste Erfahrung?
    Ist dir Trinken bitter, werde Wein.

    Sei in dieser Nacht aus Übermaß
    Zauberkraft am Kreuzweg deiner Sinne,
    ihrer seltsamen Begegnung Sinn.

    Und wenn dich das Irdische vergaß,
    zu der stillen Erde sag: Ich rinne.
    Zu dem raschen Wasser sprich: Ich bin>

    –Rainer Maria Rilke


    Sonnets to Orpheus


    Silent friend of many distances, feel
    how your breath enlarges all of space.
    In the darkness of the belfry’s high beams,
    ring out like a bell. That which weakens you

    will grow strong from such nourishment.
    Move through transformation, out and in.
    What is your most painful experience?
    If the drinking is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

    Be in this night of a thousand excesses,
    the magic power at the crossroads of your senses,
    the meaning of their rare encounter.

    And when the earth has forgotten you,
    say to the quiet land say: I flow.
    And to the rushing waters speak: I am.



    I have waited a long time to share Rilke with you, having wanted to recite the poem to you in New York…though, now I cant think of a better time to sing out. I have loved this series since the moment I first saw that magnificent self-portrait in the mirror (photo #4 above), as I thought to myself here is a person who is unafraid to sing out about loss and is able to describe the broken sense of self that each of us, whatever our scars or our healing, carry though often all too often backaged in the corner like an old bike. It seems that I have written so often about the specific photographs and the series as a whole already, so I will cloud over the powerful and remarkably beautiful experience for others. all I can add is that this story is not just about the peculiar world that you navigate each and every day with your joyous, dancing bones (your ruby exoskeleton and your golden one) but is in fact the story of each of our lives, the way we dribble around space, shift-shape into the world around us seeing and being seen, carrying all that carriage and backage of bones that is the welp shapre of our hearts. More over, i have always seen this story as a powerful long song, really a song of testament and witness, not only about your life, but about your life with Ed and all that this entails. but it has blossomed into a poem about our own expectations, the young girl running the marathon, the child who has discovered a dead blue jay, the overly protective mother shadowing her grown up son in the pool, the frightened women, the powerful sister, the remarkable and agile living of the life and the celebration of all that this entails: the silence between two people whose lives and bones and bodies know one another so well that words become superflous, shadows that contour the sidewalk or the trellis of late-afternoon light. IN the end, what I love about this story is not that, not for a moment, we feel pity or sadness for her, though I do feel the wheeling over of sadness which comes from all work that transforms and conveys the sense of wonder of this life, but only joy: joy for this powerful, passionate, filled-with-life vision of what it means to see, to reknew and to ambulate remarkably through a world “hip level”….

    deeply simple and beautiful and filled with life….

    and it sings to the rushing world : I AM

    with love


    just re-read what i wrote, egads, it’s gotta be still the flu, so many typos…i was trying to say this this is a Love song :)))…not only about your world, but about how each of us must learn and relearn and regain again what it means to live with life….and to celebrate that in the living….you already know how i feel about the pics and the arc of the story….i just cant wait to see this play out over the next six months and then bloom into a book….

    everything, always, falls into place…



    I was very much looking forward to see your final edit and I was not disappointed. You are such a beacon of light and energy in this world Patricia. We need many Patricia’s these days but there is only one!!! You came to the blog one day and it immediately felt like you were always part of the family. You did suffer when there was some tension among some members, you sent us a photograph of you dancing of joy when we launched BURN in New York… You are one hell of a woman Patricia and I cannot imagine this place without you around… Having you among us all is also such a testament to the way David looks at photographers…it does not matter the age, your background, whether you are famous or not, professional or not…produce excellent work, stay on the case and David will be there for you…. Funny story to share with you… I have been pushing my father who is a photographer who also previously joined a class of David to join the blog and try to continue to be mentored by David… He was telling me no, my english is not very good and above all, he was convinced that David would want to push and focus on young photographers who have their career ahead of them (i.e the years!!!)…I was telling him bullshit, that this was just an excuse… Well Patricia, you are the “Living Proof” (to use the title of one of Davd’s book) that it is never too late to start a career in pohotography. It is also such a blessing to see someone like David being able to welcome “emerging photographers” who are not exactly starting up their lives… I am sure that in that sense, you are an inspiration for many out there…. Now, beyond the example that you are setting Patricia, you have also done a very moving personal piece of work. It is so difficult to turn the camera on oneself…I know I could not do it… I love the way you are slowly constructing every piece of the puzzle….one more picture at a time, here and there… all I can say Pat is congrats and much respect for who you are, what you do and the work that you are sharing with us.





    beautiful work…favorites are 21 and 26

    “about how each of us must learn and relearn and regain again what it means to live with life….and to celebrate that in the living”

    thank you bob for putting that into words…

    feel better and looking forward to the next meet up…


  8. your story moved me..
    I didn’t see them as self portraits.. (although I believe every photo we take is in some way a ‘self portrait’)
    I read them as you telling your story… (don’t know if that makes sense~ but it reads to me as your story, rather than a series of self portraits)
    through your eyes..
    It inspires
    and gives hope…
    Can’t wait to see chapter 2….


  9. Oh Patricia, you made me cry!

    There is something so touching about this essay, all of the fragility and strength of you is expressed so beautifully- you go girl!

    My two favorite images are the one of the bird and the sandles and the one of you smiling on the bus…

    This is a great way to start the New Year, congratulations and the best for 2009!

  10. Patricia,

    Thank you for wet my eyes throught your photopgraphs. You are so special, brave and determined. I’ll think about your essay when I’m feeling blue. You warmth my soul with the perseverance you show on being you and loving it. Your photos are so so warm and personal…I don’t have any words. I’m going to watch it again.

  11. … i cant believe that pat is able to describe a “whole lifetime” with only couple photos…
    … brilliant…. one of my favorites ( maybe the “one” for me ), is the one with little framed picture on the wall… from the little girl… running…
    i cant take this photo out of my mind!!!

  12. I am not a photographer. (forgive me). I came to this website because Panos directed me here, to see his work, (of course). I happened upon your work, Patricia. He has spoken so highly of you. Now I see why. I couldn’t help it, I had to comment. It is beautiful. I cried when I saw it. Your suffering comes through so clearly. I felt your pain. I saw the beauty that you see, in your life.
    I am, as I said, not a photographer, but I am an artist, a woman, a single mother of four. I am well aquainted with the feeling of pain. As my father died, I sang this song to him, (blackbird). Your pictures made me feel not so alone in this world of suffering. I thank you for giving me a point of relation at a time when I feel so alone. Bless you, in all your struggles, and joys, bless you.

  13. Dear Patricia…I continue to enjoy the development of this body of work that you are making. Reading about its evolution over the past many months on Road Trips, your discussions with David etc. has been a real interest to me and I really look forward to seeing what emerges in the form of its ‘completion’.

    Thankyou for letting us into your life in the form of these small glimpses.


    P.S. I love Image 10, of the bird and your shoes. It just makes me smile.

  14. PS
    i don’t see an image by patricia of a framed picture, but the photo being held of the girl running is, i think, patricia before she developed MS. ???


  15. Dear Patricia. Reading the blog, i’ve heard about you and read your words. I just looked at your essay silently . i didn’t listen to the music. Honestly i wanted to go to you and listen to you. What affected me most is the fact that you are letting people know about your life and bravely, strongly making sure you’re heard with your pictures. Some are so tender, some harsh and realistic but then there’s the joy you seem to have about life and the people you’ve met who enrich you. You have some of that giddy glee that i know David has which is so inspiring. You’re a nice lady; i admire how much you push and change your mind about edits and have made this yours. they are your pictures and your life…no matter how they’re edited. That truth is powerful. You’re beautiful. thank you.

    anne henning

  16. I am deeply touched by the responses thus far. Thanks to all who have allowed themselves to be open to my story. But I also want to invite critques as well as encouragement. This is such an amazing opportunity to learn.

    Freida, it is for you and others like you that I do this work. I’m glad it helps you know you’re not alone.


  17. Oh Eric, please ask your father to check out my essay and then see if he feels he is still “too old” to join our community! As for not being comfortable with English, I’m sure Audrey, Marcin and others would tell him it just doesn’t matter. We’re all about the language of photographs, the language of the heart.

  18. Dear Patricia

    David wrote:
    “Patricia is not a professional photographer.”

    Yes, nobody will pay you for your essay (or maybe will?) so you can be a pro photographer, but if I don’t know you and this story I would say that this essay is full professional, very deep, reasonable and pried story.
    But I know you so I can say; this is full professional, very deep, reasonable and pried and very brave personal story.
    Hats off.

  19. Chère Patricia,

    You know all the good of which I think of your work, I love your new images, the swimming pool, the bird, painting, the image of the running, the beach…
    What I appreciate in your your photography, it is this sweetness, this optimism, this courage, you are an inspiration for me, I am sure that you are realizing a work which will mark the history of the photography…

    Amitiés, audrey

  20. Hi Patricia.

    Thank you for having the courage to show us this essay.

    I like the essay very much. You have shown some compelling pictures and I’ve been positively surprised by your essay. “surprised” because after having red the intro, I had certain expectations of pictures in the “sentimental”-category. Well, maybe that’s just me, but I’ve seen my share of essays on similar topics were the pictures are just too obvious. You pretty much avoid the traps. I’ll point to some of the places were I think you actually did present obvious, border-line boring pictures.

    The picture of you holding a photograph with yourself running a marathon (#17)is the style I had expected. To me it’s too obvious a picture to be included in the essay. The picture with your hand holding the bike wheel is in the same category, though somewhat more subtle. To me it balances on the edge of being too sentimental for my taste. The picture with the painting of you on the wall (#12) is the strongest of the “broken dreams”-series. It pretty much obliviates the need for the other pictures mentioned above. I’ll try to explain.

    If you have scleroses or other conditions there is a lot of things you cannot do (like marathon or bicycle racing). But, we know that. so, show the things we don’t know – like you have done so briliantly in some of the other photos. For example the picture with you singing at the piano. It just blew me away. Here you reveal a lot of your personality (eg. tatoo, “No War”-sign). At the same time the picture is filled with love for life for it’s own sake. A closer look might reveal hints of your condition, but it’s not the prominent feature. Thus, to me, this picture tells me a lot more about you, your life and your attitude than any other picture in the essay – though it’s not your best picture here evaluated after pure aesthetic/artistic values (whatever that means). Some of the other pictures really shows you potential as a photographer.

    What I’m trying to say is that pictures like number 5 (love the toe nails) and 6, just to mention a couple, show that you not only are an eminent visual story teller, but also have very good “eyes”.

    All the best,
    Soren Larsen.

    NB: It’s obvious that english is not my first language – and I’m worried that I come across too harsh. So, I have deleted a lot in the above and I hope you’ll take it all in the best meaning (and that my text still makes sense).

  21. Yes, nobody will pay you for your essay (or maybe will?) -marcin luczkowski

    i will, i’d pay loads, i’d even invest to be sure it became available in print, and i’d not feel sinsister when it attracts a cult following,… if Ms. Lay-Dorsey would let me have just a teeny weeny editorial influnce ;-) xxx O X O

    All the best,
    Soren Larsen

    good job Soren, it’s not easy trying to explain something so complex, you did well.

    Congratulations Patricia. X O

  22. Hello Soren Larsen,
    I understand what you want to say about the photo of the marathon or the cycle, but I am not of your opinion, I like these photos because they are exactly understandable by all, and require no explanation…
    Best regards, audrey

  23. Yes, I would hope that in some small way my work would help move photography forward, especially in terms of giving others the courage to tell their own stories with as much honesty as possible…especially if their story differs from the norm.

    Too many of us turn our cameras outside of ourselves and try to tell stories we can only guess at. I’ve seen this done too many times in photo essays featuring persons with disabilities. It was my gut reaction to all-too-many sentimental portrayals of those “poor” disabled folks that compelled me to start this project in the first place and to do my best to keep it REAL.


  24. First coffee of the day in hand, I sit to see what is happening on Burn and start to read your introduction. It brings tears to my eyes. They are not tears of pity, perhaps tears of empathy but more so, I feel your work evokes a note of understanding. The world is so full of destruction, hate and unkindness and I wonder how many acts of understanding it takes for people to find their hearts. I believe this is one step in the right direction. Congratulations Patricia.

  25. i was moved to tears.. just beautiful….. my emotions mixed because i have had a mother very ill the past few months and have been documenting.. bringing my camera every time i visit… while she is now in an “awakening” period… … the sensitiviy of being so up close and personal with a loved one is life changing… and i sense the same thing watching your piece.. even one step closer than documenting my mother.. but documenting “self “…. raw .. honest. beautiful…

  26. Congratulations Patricia! Lovely work, insightful, without pity (obviously non required here), very personal moments shared. Thank you.

    At first viewing, my favorites are 9, 11, 12 (a subtle photograph, it reminds me of the cover of Joseph Koudelka’s book Gypsies – the old man holding a photograph of himself when young. It’s not the same but it evokes the same emotional response; like Paul Simon’s song Bookends) 14 19 21 23 (life goes on – another Beatles song – love the tat!) 26 28. Hope this helps.

    Mike R.

  27. Lovely Patricia,:)))

    I love your essay very much. I always have recognized that Real artist must be honest to himself(herself) and to his work. And I think that All arts comes from our own trauma. Your works are very honest to you. So your works touch me very much. At the first days of year …very amazing and beatiful essay…Thank you so so much…Wish all happiness!


  28. oh patricia…

    i watched your essay twice last night – through wet eyes – and awoke this morning thinking about you and your story. what was running around in my brain all night was that it has become too easy to look at photos of hardship such as war and poverty unblinkingly, with a hidden heart – i suppose because they cry out for our attention constantly and they feel so overwhelming that the only thing we can do sometimes is shut down. but the portrayal of the necessary simplicity of your complicated life and the quiet things that you see and have meaning to you, plus your “live out loud” attitude about it all, gave me pause.

    out beyond ideas of art and not art… isn’t photography really about communicating a feeling? the wet eyes many of us shared had nothing to do with pity, but about feeling something. you transcended the lens and instantly connected us to the beauty you see in the seemingly mundane around you. you somehow removed the obstacle of my own mobility to share a perspective on beauty i would have missed. you are brave on the rocks!

  29. Patricia..

    what an uplifting few minutes..at first I felt that knowing you would forever skew my ability to really SEE this work, that I would see ore or less or differently because of familiarity. But this morning I feel like I am seeing this work for the first time, and am so pleased for you. At times I felt like these images could only be captured by someone else looking in from the outside, but coincident with that is the magic that these are moments that only you could show. Not sure how you managed that, except for a combination of egoless-ness and self knowing.. Also a big sigh of congratulations at having this finished or somewhat finished..life moves on. Big hug!

  30. patricia–

    you are truly Luminous.

    my only critique is that i feel there are too many photos
    that feature your feet/toes. 6 out of 31.
    it just feels a bit repetitive.

    i absolutely adore the one with you and ed at the piano.
    i would love to do a print trade with you on that.
    i want it on my wall to be a constant reminder
    of why i Love Life so much.
    and i have the perfect photo to gift to you in exchange. :)
    let me know..

    looking forward,



  31. Happy new beginnings dear Patricia!
    very strong series. my bows to you. I’ve seen many of the pictures before, and have looked at the essay a number of times today. the series is a powerful celebration of ordinary things that most of us take for granted till the moment they disappear no matter how hard we try to grasp to them. i appreciate your celebration of life and loss that comes with it. thank you for sharing your wisdom, pain, and courage and warmth – a wonderful light within you with others.

  32. Patricia,

    You have a fantastic eye for composition – you have that “loose” quality that DAH talks about.

    My favorites are the images that are less obvious. I would try and stick in that vein. The ones that work less for me are the obvious stick it on a tripod and get everything lined up straight shots. I like the intimacy that happens when it’s your hand holding the camera, or even when the camera is seemingly just set down on a table or dresser near you. Keep it loose and somewhat mysterious.

    It’s a brave and moving piece (I’ll admit I haven’t watched it with the music yet – really don’t think it would add much anyway). Best of luck with your health and future.


  33. Such helpful feedback from everyone. I’m just listening listening listening, doing my best to be open to new ways of seeing. Thank you, thank you to all who have taken the time to look at my essay. And special thanks to those who have shared their responses to it with me, either here or by email. A new year, a new beginning…


  34. I just notice that I made mistake with sentence when I wrote you can be a pro photographer and should be you can’t be pro photographer I hope you understood what I mean anyway.
    Even if pro mean earning money I think you just have pro quality.
    but anyway… hats off.

  35. I know I went overboaard on the feet for this edit, but in the whole body of work, the feet don’t take up more than their share of space. At least I hope not.

    I’d love to do a print exchange if you don’t mind waiting. My fancy-dancy printer is on the blink ;=(


  36. Patricia,
    my wonderful friend, you are my hero!
    The response to your images is superb and the previous comments say what I cannot improve.

    Let me quote from the email that I wrote to you on August 1st 2008:
    “Before I start to say how much I like the images I want to say that DAH wrote about you and Panos in his introduction (post) and described you as even “looser than Panos”. So I pictured a young girl going wild. And then I was surprised to find out that you are an older lady who has grey hair, sits in a moving chair and suffers from MS (please don’t mind me saying this, I am 38 years old and to many people I am old as well, although I don’t feel like it plus I have grey hair as well). So what I want to say is that I admire your courage and your joy to live! I say: RESPECT!
    Keep up your work and I am looking forward to see more of your images in the future.”

    During the past month we exchanged emails and a friendship grew. We talked about the Lebanon, my next door neighbours Erika and Günther who fell madly in love at the age of 80+, Obama, Nan Goldin, burn and some other stuff. Today I regard Patricia as a great friend. Patricia, this means the world to me!

    And what can I say after Rilke? …

    Bob, that was nice to put the german words in as well. It was so wonderful to read some words in my language on this blog! You truly find the right words. How is your German?

    Patricia, the Beatles song fits well to your images, but your images don’t necessarily need music. Nevertheless I feel that your voice could have been a nice contribution to your images. To me the voice of a person is a great source of information. I would love to hear you speak the introduction you wrote. And yes, most of us don’t have a recording studio at home, but I am sure there is a solutions to this. Perhaps this idea is something to contemplate about for future online essay presentations.

    Patricia, thank you very much for sharing your life with everybody here on burn!
    Stay the way you are! You are an incredible character!

    Big hugs

  37. Reimar, my dear friend,

    I can’t believe that you–the lurker extraordinaire–finally came out into the open & posted a comment! It’s been months hasn’t it, since your voice was last heard on DAH’s blog? Anyway, I’m honored and grateful that my essay inspired you to go public. And I very much appreciate your kind words and interesting suggestion.

    Actually, DAH had the same idea about the voiceover. So I spent hours last Sunday making a digital recording of me reading my text. WWhen I tried it on my own FotoMagico slideshow, I just felt it didn’t work. To me, it distracted my attention from the images and, as a listener, made me feel a bit schizophrenic. My eyes wanted to go one place while my ears were telling me to go somewhere else.

    I love MM pieces with voiceovers and when it works, it really works. David McGowan’s Garage Sale MM piece comes to mind. But I’ll keep it in mind for another time.


  38. Patricia I like it.. I Like the feeling of strength and peacefulnes at the same time, you spread to me.. the way and the willingness to share such intimate pictures with us. It’s the world around you and and world as you sees it.. As I saw when I met you at DAvid’s house You always have a smile for anyone.. and it can bee seen on this job… thanks for sharing with us.. I go to see it again..

  39. Patricia,
    I had to come up to the surface at some time. Glad I did! Actually I commented on Panos essay a couple of days ago. Like it a lot!

    The combination of image and sound is something completly new to most photographers. We are visual people and now with the new possibilties that MM offers we need to explore the audio world and become familiar with it. I think one way of getting some good results is to have a selection of images and then write the text according to the images. So the text fits and complements the image. An art in itself. Not an easy task. Many tries and errors are inevitable. Still struggling with it myself. Glad you gave it a try.

    I’ve been hinking about your work for a while. I feel it shows how fragile life is and at the same time it shows the power of you – of what we as humans can do.
    Great piece to encourage many other people to do likewise.

  40. hold on, ok…
    let me watch it again…
    ( ALL. please switch to the latest (free) Firefox version…
    avoid Safari & of course anything else under it…

    … so now lets watch the show once again…
    Patricia, again, lots of wine in me right now, but
    all i can say is : Right on…

  41. Patricia,
    i remember our ( the whole DAH workshop crew … dinner in brooklyn) ,
    under the bridge, Brazilian restaurant,
    everyone happy, dancing,cheering… yelling… enjoying, celebrating,
    but… You & me at the corner,,,,… You made me cry… because YOU hold the “truth”…
    thank you Patricia…

  42. Patricia,
    A strong and moving essay. Personal, intimate, and yet wide open, just like your heart. It’s a pleasure to have met you in Brooklyn and I look very forward to the release of your book. Sign me up for an autographed copy please.

  43. Patricia, I am just blown away–not only by the photos (which are magnificent–totally a fresh creation) but also by this amazing response from your friends and peers. You have indeed moved into a new level–of your art, your capacity for seeing, and of yourself. I feel like someone watching an old friend receive some great honor before a huge audience–and that is exactly what is happening.
    And to think, all this comes at the beginning of a new year. No need to say “Happy New Year” to you–you have already been given great gifts, and you in turn have given great gifts to us all. I always knew your were a treasure, and now those riches are being seen and acknowledged by the larger world. As you know, I typically express my feelings in poetry, and so here are some excerpts from a poem I wrote recently (called “The Summing Up”);

    The invitations
    kept coming
    and we kept on opening them,
    one by one,
    finding here
    a curious trail
    with strange animals peering,
    there an improbable

    Who knew it would
    lead to where we are today?
    Who could have guessed
    such indescribable


    Always a progression
    into a new level
    of awareness.
    More than a moment,
    a moving revelation,
    a continuing reenactment
    of the self
    in a new key.

    All my love, dear friend. I cannot contain my joy!

  44. christopher bär

    this is really beautiful… i just saw the vision of a strong woman, who just gave me so much pleasure which i hadn’t lately when i was watching photos!

    thank you for sharing…!

  45. Tight edit, Patricia, it must have proven to be arduous work to get to the final selection. It’s all very unique, what i love most is that the pictures, or rather the frames are only half the story, I suppose poetry comes not so much from the words, but from between the words, and the silences too. This is how best I enter the world you have opened up to us, Patricia. (And yes, my favorite one is still the one with the uninvited ghost, the….Black virgin!).

  46. The silences between the notes. Yes, Herve, you have articulated exactly what I’m after here. If I were to try to show every aspect of my life, this would be a confused mixmatch of unrelated images. And it would bore you to tears. You’ve helped me see that my task is find the UNseen not the seen. Ah, my deep-thinking friend, again you have managed to throw me wonderfully off guard. And I thank you for that…


  47. I’m with David G – what else can I say?? beautiful, moving, intimate, personal, honest, loose… wait – those have all been said. My friend – you have taught us all to LIVE LIFE. thank you. xox

  48. Patricia,
    Thank you so much for sharing your work, and through it, a bit of your experience. I feel to grateful that you happened upon me and Jack that year at Michfest, and that we’ve been able to remain in contact all this time. I loved the perspective that your work shows… I often remark that Jack could do a whole collection on people’s butts, as that’s what he gets to look at when we’re in crowded places. Thank your for the intimacy of this piece. I’m touched…

  49. Patricia–soo wonderful to see your images Large, with music! Someone commented early on that the meaning of the photo in the coffee shop was unclear. I noticed the book is opened to a picture of an upside-down figure, prompting me to look up the Tarot. The set “Daughters of the Moon” has this entry: “Reversal is a voluntary surrender or letting go of outworn ways of thinking. The womon hangs suspended in time; reversed, changed, transformed, as she undergoes inner metamorphosis. Negative thoughts and ways of being are dispersing to make way for new affirmations of life. The light of understanding surrounds her as she shines in this moment when everything falls into place.” (Ffiona Morgan) Blessings and Love.

  50. Patricia,

    You are not disabled, you are just unable to do the same things you did before, it happens to you and to me and to all. But, certainly, one of your abilities remains intact, the ability to tell stories, with images, that is, in such a wonderful way that the private in you becomes part of the audience so that we all feel connected and inspired by you.

    Happy new year!


  51. Traficmama/Nancy Burgess

    Patrica, I have only known you at and through the Michigan Womyns Music Festival. What a thrill it was to open this email and be able to see you as you are in the “other” world.
    I guess Ive never seen you as disabled as a very long time ago I learned t use the term differently abled and have done that ever since.
    I wish you all the love that the world can give you to take in and use as you see fir. I hope to see you again at the festival next Aurgust.

    SEE YOU IN AUGUST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Trafic/Nancy

  52. Well Patricia Lay-Dorsey, your body may not behave the way you’d like but your Soul & Spirit sure do soar fast as a Hummingbird, and just as beautifully too. Look at you, I rush over here to see your photos, and there are already 72 RESPONSES! WOW! You are one popular lady, and I know why. Having sung with you, and shared some precious moments heart to heart…Now seeing you express yourself so deeply with your camera, I am moved yet again, my friend. Thank-you for sharing this deep and personal part of yourself. You en*COURAGE me to share more deeply and revealingly about my own challenges, which I am able to hide from many, but not from myself. that gets lonely, for sure…Thanks yet again, for showing me a gentler, more noble way to be.

    As Agnes DeMille expresses it so beautifully: “Dance in the body you have.”

    I love you Patricia Lay-Dorsey

  53. Missy~from fest

    Sweet Patricia~
    You are such a blessing. I appreciate you sharing you…so strong, so beautiful. It is always brave to risk seeing yourself.

    Be blessed~

  54. Linda Reidt Critchfield

    Patricia – what a wonderful new year’s gift to me and your other many friends. It was neat for me to see places I recognize: the pier, your home, and Eddie in the pool who looks great. I felt these pictures were positive and some truly joyful. I think your positive attitude is coming through your lens. Thank you very much and so glad Burn saw the value to post them.


    ps. I no longer run either.

  55. Patricia-
    I’m fascinated by your “angle” of story telling here, not just the physical angle, but how you saw to tell your story…I know the discussion of self-portraits came up before, but allowing all of us and the world to see the way you view yourself is very powerful. I suppose it ties in with the conversation over at Tom Chambers photograph, but you almost have this constructed image that is a snapshot of the your very real life and view of yourself. It’s interesting that came from a recent history of photo montages…certainly an influence as you said.

    You’ve shown all of us here your photos and progression (a very interesting process to watch indeed), but there’s nothing like seeing the story you imagine to tell weave itself into a fabric. Especially having seen the individual images you’ve shared over the months. I know it’s not finished, but the hum of the song, patter of crescendoing drums is exciting…and I couldn’t even listen to the music with my presently slow connection!

    You certainly became the resident sage here very quickly, and as said above by many, so much still to be learned from you.


  56. Patricia,

    Thanks for including me on your website.
    It’s so nice to hear from you again, and to witness this remarkable creative odessey that fortunately for all of us you are compelled to pursue. Since i did not know you Before, and i’m ashamed to admit that i had not considered this, sharing your private thoughts has inspired me even more than you already did, to truly embrace what life has to offer, whatever the circumstances may be.

    Best to you always,

  57. Patricia! I’m so touched and impressed! being a disabled, or maybe differently-abled, person myself, I can relate to those everyday trials and tribulations that you so thoughtfully documanted in your photos. Of dealing with what you can’t do anymore, but more importantly, what you can now do under life’s deck of cards that you have been dealt. Your photography is certainly different because of your situation and we are blessed that you are able to give an idea of what life is always looking up! Please continue your important work for yourself and for others in similar situations who maybe can’t give a voice/face to our plights.

    PS…I miss running too!

    The world is a better place becasue you are in it!


  58. Pix and Heather

    thank you Patricia!! We met you at Carolyn McDade’s great birthday party out west… and we can still see you atop Grandmother’s Hills… what a great day that was!
    We’ve just visited with you through your wonderful words and photos… thanks for the continued inspiration.
    Keep the shutter clicking…
    musical friends…

  59. Your link comes to me through Sacred Web. Thank you for sharing your vision and your soul. Many many blessings for your journey.

  60. Wow – Such expression…no not on your face…rather of your whole self – your expression full and rich with colors and feelings of your day to day extraordinary self. Glad to love ya.

  61. Melody A. McKellar

    Thank you Patricia for these self-portraits. The sharing of yourself helps me walk a little straighter in the facing of my own health challenges. Blessed be, sister.

    Melody :)

  62. Patricia;

    As usual I arrive late for the party…. But there is a reason. Where I live in rural New Zealand I have a VERY slow dial up connection and I knew that to truly appreciate an uninterrupted viewing of your piece I’d need broadband!

    Well… I finally got the chance to duck up to the library and hijack their broadband connection (legally cos anyone can hook up to it for free!) and was able to sit in the car & watch your essay.

    You’ve provided me with an intimate insight into your life; it was truly worth the wait to view it. I loved the subtlety and personal aspect; and the positivity.

    I would say you’ve had a hell of a job editing a lot of images down to your final sublime selection.

    Thank you!!!

  63. ALL

    There’s no way I could ever express what your comments have meant to me. To be honest, I was quite uneasy about what response my essay would receive here on Burn, especially after having read some pretty harsh comments about the essays and selected photos that were posted before mine. So to receive such positive feedback and helpful suggestions has touched me deeply. It has also increased my confidence in this work.

    From the start, DAH saw it as a book, but I must admit that seemed like a long shot to me. Yes, I kept working towards its becoming a book, but it wasn’t until now that I really believed it would happen. You have given me exactly what I needed at this stage of the process. And I thank you for that.


    P.S. Critiques are ALWAYS welcome. They help me improve whatever needs improving.

  64. Jenna Blumenthal

    Patricia, you are an amazing and beautiful woman. I love your spirit. I am inspired by your strength, courage, and powerfully packed passion. Thank you for sharing your story and your wonderful images.
    All my love,

  65. Patricia, Not only do you tell your story with the lens, which you have taken to with such passion, but your writing ability is truly remarkable. I envy your ability to convey your thoughts with what seems such ease. Congrats to you, a job well done.

  66. Patricia,

    Things do fall into place within this incredible visual/written narrative. To me true art is that which moves one’s sentiments, and your visual art within “Falling into Place” truly touched every corner of my range of emotions.

    I am very grateful of having met you, because it took you to show all the “able” people in Detroit where the real soul of Techno music is at.

    Thanks for this gift you have given us. Keep up the great work!


  67. Hello Patricia –

    Your incredibly inspiring and beautiful photo essay came my way (in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) via Nathalie LeFrancois in Carolyn McDade’s ever expanding circle of singers.

    As a photographer myself, I was truly “blown away” by the shots that you took: fabulous angles, great use of shadows, tender intimacy, clever creativity with lines, totally perfect exploration of color, truly sensational composition stylings, and with each picture able to tell its own story exquisitely. What a remarkable collection from an obviously remarkable woman.

    You are a portrait painter, a soul dancer, a wisdom keeper, and a living example of hope and possibility in action. I certainly encourage you to continue with this project and create a book about your life and your love of life – even as you face incredible challenges and explore the world from a unique perspective. What you have shared here is a rich inspiration for all of us.

    I wish you happiness and serenity in 2009.

    with much warmth,
    Chris Mann

    PS If we truly examine ourselves, we are all differently abled in some way or another – from physical to intellectual to psychological etc – but you have managed to create magnificent beauty out of your own unique challenges. May we all aspire to be like you!

  68. Patricia;
    Thank you for sending this out! My heart is overwhelmed by your generosity with yourself. Thank you for being at our marches, picket lines, sitting up with us in our demands for respect. This project is a great leap!!!You are an amazing woman. An inspiration to all.Happy New Year.See you at the barricades.

  69. Patricia,
    congratulations on your remarkable work. What most impresses me with your work and the works of those
    who have shown their personal photo essays here on Burn, is the dedication and the process of learning about yourself and oneself as Subject. It’s not about how many great shots you get in that time or if it can be classified as “photo journalism” or not. In this forum, I think it’s actually more helpful to see some shots that we think could be edited out, rather than see perfect edits…. i think it makes us all better photographers…and most will agree how difficult it is to edit ones own work….
    It’s also a privilege to have fellow photographers allow us in, while they expose themselves out to us.
    abrazos amiga!

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  72. Tianda "Lady T' Mims


    While we missed you greatly at festival, rest assured that we can see you have not been wasting time!! Your photo essay is thought provoking, breathtaking and just so totally awesome that I cannot seem to find the right words to express how profound it is. Knowing you, even casually, has been a blessing, and delving deeper through these images is awe-inspiring. Keep up the good work. You are cherished and loved.

  73. Patricia,
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It gave me a great sense of happiness and enlightenment. You are a huge inspiration for me.
    I hope to see you this year at DEMF.

  74. Congratulations, Patricia, for having your remarkable photo essay featured on this site. Your images are in good company here. Your progress has been an inspiration for me as well — watching you develop your photographic abilities to this level of expression has been one of my most rewarding experiences as a teacher to date. All the best,
    Phil Douglis, The Douglis Visual Workshops

  75. It was finding Phil Douglis’ instructional cyberbook “Expressive Travel Photography: communicating with pictures” at 1 a.m. one hot August night in 2007 that set me on the path that led to the work I am doing now.

    Phil, like David Alan Harvey, is a professional photographer who shares his wisdom & experience freely with emerging photographers and sees mentoring as one of his most important roles in life. Now in his mid-70s, Phil continues to travel the world taking photos that he then uses as teaching tools in his cyberbook. I encourage folks to check out Phil’s web site at


    I am forever indebted to Phil Douglis for bringing me back to straight photography after my six-monthh exploration of photomontages. More than that, it was Phil who showed me that photographhy is all about saying what you need to say. Expression is everything.


  76. Patricia,
    You’ve inspired me as a photographer but it’s more than that you’ve kindled my spirit..
    Congratulations I love this series..
    x Roe

  77. Mrs. Dorsey, I am “wet behind my eyes” with the beauty, the honesty and the bravery of your photo story. You have always inspired me, I’ve always been grateful for your impact on my life and this essay continues that inspiration and gratitude.

    Love Colleen

  78. Grannie Patricia, I was fascinated by you years ago when we first met on the shores of Lake Michigan
    at a UDOM retreat, and am still amazed by your inate artistic talent and many abilities. You do inspire
    others to continue the good fights for social justice in many ways. And so would I like (occasionally)
    to do some of the things I used to do and no longer can.That is part of growing,along with replacing
    those old habits, hobbies, with continually new adventures—–that’s staying young!

  79. hey grandmas techno..

    excellent.. very good.. and loving some of the newer photos which i must have missed while you edited..

    particlar favs for me remain the dead bird.. the book on your chair with the family picnic background.. your self portrait.. great.

    brave woman you are and great to read so many comments.. next stop – publishers, or another few months shooting?

  80. Mary Pendergast

    Patricia, when I saw you soar through Grandmother’s Hills, and sing your heart out all day and night, then go swimming in the coooold lake, I said ,”MMMM what a woman!” Mary (ANE)

  81. To my photographer and non-photographer friends, old and new…

    The making of this essay has forced me to look at hard truths about my unique way of being in the world, realities I’ve often preferred to ignore. As those of you who know me in real life realize, I don’t like to show that being disabled cramps my style. But sometimes it does. And a few of these photos show those moments all too graphically.

    For instance, the photo of me on the floor was taken when I’d actually taken a fall. Happily, I could reach my camera in my scooter’s basket and take advantage of the moment. But it still took me 45 minutes to get up again. That was the only time I’ve ever felt a fall was worth it!

    So now it’s all “out there” for the world to see. The responses I’ve received have shown me that this is important work I’m doing. And it’s not about the quality of the photos either–although I hope they don’t detract–but rather about the quality of life I’m trying to maintain.

    As I continue this project, I can promise you one thing: to tell my story as truthfully as I can. That, to me, is the essential core of this work. Truth.

    Thank you for your encouragement, suggestions and support. It means more than I can say.


  82. Shaun Nethercott

    Patricia, It was so nice to see the photos. I know you have been shooting for a long time and I have very much enjoyed your photo documentation of so many amazing events, but this work is deeper and more beautiful than any I have seen so far. The use of light and shadow, the depth of field, and use of closeup are just wonderful.

    Thank you so much.

    I hope I will see you on Feb 7 at the Gaia gathering.


  83. so nice again to “blaetter” (turn the pages) of the burn magazine. I feel just a bit annoyed that I don’t need to pay anything for the service/experience/enjoyment. Not that I’m used to pay for photography especially on internet, even books I only “blaetter(ed)” in the bookstores, but here on internet not even advertisements! Thanks for the wonderful feelings that shine through your pictures Patricia! Like an excellent photographer would have managed to get into your life and show some of it, getting so close to you. Here is Burn “unique” (nothing comparable) as far as I know! felt like … well … dunno, that’s why pictures are different from words. so much to impressions to share in this world, so much to show

  84. Patricia, I’ve just seen the new opening photograph of your essay and I just have to write to say what a great portrait! I’m most impressed – very stong, multiple layers, great colour. Congratulations.

    Best wishes,


  85. Thanks so much, Mike, for first finding this new cover photo and then taking the time to comment on it. I was pleased when DAH opened the door to my adding new photos to my essay by saying it could “evolve” as BURN evolves. I have a good number of photos that I’ve taken since my essay was posted on January 1: two of them were added yesterday. And the work continues…


  86. Wow Patricia!! I just wanted to say your new opening mirror image is FIERCE! This picture hits me in the gut – it’s so strong! Keep shooting girl, a great essay just keeps getting better!

  87. patricia:

    Magnificent new cover image…and i love how it ties in with the nude plaster cast in the background…maybe my favorite photograph from the series :))))…a brilliant opening….now, that i see people are updating, i have to keep tabs on y’all!!


  88. you…
    dear Patricia…
    are an inspiration..
    keep shooting…
    keep editing…
    love the torso, in the background…
    the light…..
    are you familiar with VSA in DC?

  89. Wow! You folks are so kind with your comments. This photo has special meaning to me because the mirror I’m holding is my paternal grandmother’s silver hand mirror with her initials–LLLL–engraved on the back. And the clay sculpture in the background is one I made when I was in art college in the late 1970s. Feels like I’m coming home…


  90. Oops…just read the VSA submission guidelines & that presents a bit of a problem. The proposed exhibition must include at least five artists, the majority of whom are artists with disabilities. Anyody know any other photographers who address disability issues and/or are disabled themselves?


  91. Patricia..
    I might be able to give you some contacts.. We are showing an artist in April, Shay Bredimus, young new talent in LA.. In addition to him, we are hosting the GreenLight exhibit..
    I just met Shay, and he would be one brilliant match for you, and a contact for others… He uses tattoo ink on sheets of a type of film- don’t remember the type of ‘film’…. mmm..
    If not 2009, maybe something to focus on for 2010!! **

  92. Thanks for sharing not just your excellent work, Patricia, you are brilliant as a human being and artist.
    A big and sincere hug from your friend

  93. Patricia,
    Your photo essay is exquisite. You paint with your camera and you write beautifully. Thank you for letting me into your inner space. You are wonderful to share your gifted eye with the world.
    How did you get that blue jay to stay long enough to match your sandal? You’re quick.
    More to talk about. Please keep shooting.
    Thank you,

  94. Hi Patricia,

    I’m an acquaintance from MichFest, and wanted to let you know I really liked your body of work here. My favorite images were the one of you and Eddie reading together, the one of you looking out the window, and the opening self-portrait.

    As far as a critiques, just a mild one — I wasn’t sure why you included the photo at the coffee shop with the open book.

    Hope to see you back at Fest one of these days, and hope the Michigan cold isn’t getting you too down!


  95. What a spectacular intimate and emotional display. I loved the one you took of Eddie outside on the ramp, the one of you two singing, and while at Einstein’s. I can sense great emotion within the photo of you reaching for the bicycle.

  96. Patricia, I too have MS (diagnosed 18 years go) and get around on a scooter. My boss is a photographer and forwarded me this link, which I would otherwise have missed. Your photographs say a lot more than words ever could to people LIKE us, people who just LOOK at us, and people who KNOW us and share our lives. I have found the blog I began this Fall (Quigley’s Cabinet) to be the perfect outlet for my own creativity with a minimum of frustration, so that my posts do not vent about my condition, but weave it into my interests – just as it is woven into my life. I link to your essay in the Health Diary I keep in the right-hand column (scroll down). I have attracted a loyal following and have been in touch with many people I would never have met and who now provide invaluable support – of my writing and of my struggles with MS. It’s so nice to be seen as a writer with MS rather than someone with MS who writes, and I imagine you feel the same about your photography. Very moving. I’d love to hear from you.

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  98. Patricia. The opening shot. Is it new? Just simply stunning. Everything is there in the frame. Very very honest and deeply moving.

  99. Patty,
    Dear Friend, what a beautiful inspiring series of photographs you have here. Your honesty is amazing and I am now willing to face our 50th. class reunion, fat as I am, tats that I have, and all. Since we last met at our 20th. reunion I have been wondering how you were doing and I see that perky little Patsy that I knew is still there with a smile on her face and love in her heart.

  100. Oh my gawd, Burn even brings old high school classmates together! What I remember about you, dear Thom, was your coming thousands of miles by motorcycle to our 20th reunion. What a guy!!! See you next year at our 50th…


  101. And John, sorry, I’d missed your kind comment and question. This cover photo was added about a month after my essay first appeared on Burn. And I actually have Kyunghee Lee to thank for inspiring me to look at my world in new ways. It was the day after looking at her “Clouds’ essay here on Burn that I uncharacteristically awoke before dawn with this idea for a shot. By the way, I’m looking in my paternal grandmother’s silver handmirror that is engraved with her initials, LLLL.


  102. you are such a star patricia..
    i´m so sorry we´ll not meet next month.. rocking the bells at detroit EM festival would have been priceless.. but it will happen sometime this year i hope.. for now summer beckons in other places.

    how about visa? you likely to visit the old country for that one?

    the front photo has double meaning for me.. you look somehow sorrowful and resigned.. yet the playful plats in your hair betray a younger heart, creatively weaving something tangible from the passing days.

    amazing you have an old school chum lending you opinion.. knowing you i´ll wager there are stories to be told :ø)

  103. Hey, David B, I am SO disappointed that we won’t be dancin’ the night away at the Detroit Electronic music Festival this May! I guess I should have realized when you wrote about your summer rental but I didn’t put two & two together. Ah well, another time. Regarding Visa, I’m afraid Look3 & the much-awaited workshop with DAH and Jim Nachtwey will make extended travels unlikely for me in 2009. But I know we’ll meet someday…


  104. yes – the only way i could have made it would have been to punt at getting them to pay my expenses in echange for good press, however i am so out of the loop on teh music mags right now that it would be unlikely..
    and time is really not on my side right now.

    yeps.. one day..
    look3 would have been great – just no chance for me this year either..
    had a good chat with anton and still feel thing pull between expense to go and shoot somewhere and expense to visit photo festivals.. and shooting is still winning right now :ø)

    beate is setting up a torcapa blog.. will mail you the url once she starts posting..

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