When Stacey Boyd shows up for an assignment, his clients are often shocked and say, “You’re the picture man?” Stacey is in a wheelchair, something clients do not expect. But Stacey has been taking photographs for more than 20 years now, and since 2007 has owned a successful photography business. It’s not the career he planned for himself, but it is one he loves.
A tragic accident. A new start.
Stacey enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1983 after graduating from high school. “I was the first person in my family to join the military,” he said. “I saw it as an opportunity to live and see the world.”
He completed his basic training at the Ft. Leonard Wood military base in Missouri and then went to Augsburg, Germany, where his main responsibility was to haul fuel. After spending a little more than a year in Germany, he was transferred to Ft. Bragg, NC.
In 1987, while serving at Ft. Bragg, Stacey was involved in a car crash, resulting in paralysis from a spinal cord injury at the T-5T6 levels. After being stabilized, he was air lifted to the Louis A. Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, where he spent one year in the hospital and rehab.
I had to learn everything all over again, like how to get dressed, get out of bed, sit up and essentially how to take care of myself.
“I was 21 years old, three years into the service, a young kid with no ambition, no kids, no goals…After I was paralyzed, it made me grow up quicker, mature quicker and realize you have a lot of decisions to make,” he said.
During his recovery, Stacey was introduced to Paralyzed Veterans of America, and things began to look up. “The first couple weeks in Cleveland a few representatives from Paralyzed Veterans came and told me how they can help me get the benefits I am entitled to,” he said. “They pretty much took care of me.” Paralyzed Veterans assisted Stacey in obtaining grants for an adaptive home that was built from the ground up; assisted in processing paperwork for payment adjustments as well as adaptive automobile and college education grants.
After being released from rehab, Stacey moved back home to Michigan with his family while his house was being built. However, during those months, Stacey began experiencing depression.
Reimagining life in a wheelchair. For himself and others.
“It was devastating to be told that you would lose the ability to walk again,” he recalled. “I always had this image of men in wheelchairs panhandling, and that is what I thought my life would be like. I had never seen any positive images of people in wheelchairs, and I never thought people in chairs could live a normal life.”
For several years, Stacey didn’t leave the house much. If it weren’t absolutely necessary, he did not go out. He was feeling like this was a different life; nothing was the same, but as long as he had his family and they supported him during this tough transition, he would be fine. “My family helped me out a lot but it took me to have an epiphany to get myself out of my depression.“
“One day something just clicked in me. All of a sudden I looked around me and realized, I’m never going to walk again, and this is the way it is going to be. I saw people around me killing themselves over depression, and I didn’t want to be like that. So I got out more. I started traveling and doing things I liked.”
I want to be a role model for other guys in wheelchairs, with spinal cord injuries, and be that positive example that I hadn’t seen and show people that you can live your life after a spinal cord injury.
Stacey began to get into photography, and every chance he got he honed his skill. “I was always the guy at family gatherings taking photos.” Finally, Stacey enrolled in Oakland Community College and began taking classes in photography.
Then, when he created a sports poster of his son Justin, his career in photography took off. “Parents and kids saw it and loved it. They started calling me up and asking me to make ones for them.” Stacey saw this as an opportunity to generate income from something he loved to do.
With the help from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Stacey launched Rollin’ Photography. Initially he specialized in customizing sports posters, but now he also does senior portraits, professional sports photography, antique photo restoration and artistic photo works for commissioned projects. “At the end of the day, what I love most in this job is to see the expressions on the kids’ faces. They are so excited to see the finished product.”
Rollin’ Photography’s success has come purely off of word of mouth, and Stacey converted his living room to be a photo studio for in-home photo sessions. “Business is booming. I hope to expand Rollin’ Photography in the near future, add an addition to my house for a studio or get office space, design a webpage and promote my business,“ he said.
Stacey’s goal in life, he said, is to be a great example for his children and for other people. “I want to be a role model for other guys in wheelchairs, with spinal cord injuries, and be that positive example that I hadn’t seen and show people that you can live your life after a spinal cord injury.”
Stacey resides in Southfield, MI, with his wife, Alicia, and their two sons, Jordan and Justin.