Living Independently

On September 19th of this year, I was to photograph someone at an assisted living facility in Chelsea, Massachusetts, for CE Pro Magazine. Unfortunately, the morning prior to the shoot I threw out my back. I would use the word "strained", but if you've ever experienced the same pain, it really is a feeling that resembles a jab or jolt of some kind, is really quite painful, and “strained” just doesn't describe it. This is a sensation that I have experienced several times since I was in my 20s, riding a bus on tour with a band. But that is another story for another day!

This day, I was able to engage one of my excellent assistants, Melissa Desjardins, who has her own studio in Nashua. I was so happy to have been able to get her to come along on such short notice because of the nature of this particular shoot. This was at the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, where a number of people with MS and Lou Gehrig's disease live. My temporary physical pain was trivial by comparison and I was intent on having it remain invisible. Thanks to Melissa, that mission was accomplished.

I am mentioning this because it made our visit so much more real to me. When you feel lousy, even though everything aside from some single annoyance may be going well, it's enlightening to visit with individuals who struggle with far more difficult issues and yet have the most positive of attitudes.

That brings me to my subject. I was asked to photograph Steve Saling at the Leonard Florence Center. Steve is a landscape architect and was a Project Manager at Copley Wolff Design Group, among other firms before his diagnosis. Incredibly positive and friendly, Steve welcomed us into his residence at the center to pose for photos and to give us a crash course on living independently using a computer that he controls only with head movement. Selecting from a cascade of letters and words on a laptop mounted to his chair, Steve speaks in full sentences using digital voice software. He controls doors, lights, electronic devices and even the elevator using special software, again with head movement.

CE Pro Magazine

Please read the article for details on the technology that makes all of this possible. An online version is here. (Only one of my photos appears in the online article and is credited to me. It is the same shot as seen in the spread above.)

I think both Melissa and I walked away from the center that day with a memorable experience to appreciate on that beautiful September morning.