Life Through a New Lens
After sustaining a spinal cord injury, photographer Bryant Poole has adapted to continue his art.
Bryant Poole, 38, didn’t discover photography until December 2012 when Trivia, his wife of 13 years, gifted him his first SLR camera for Christmas.
“So at first, I just did it for fun,” Bryant says.
But what started as a hobby quickly evolved into a passion.
Bryant jokes, “Eventually it got to the point that I had to justify all the expensive equipment I was buying, so by 2014, I started my photography company called Profiles by Bryant.”
Since then, Bryant has been a voracious learner – eager to soak up knowledge from other professionals in his craft and hone his skills. As his knowledge grew, so did his business. Profiles by Bryant covers the gamut of sports photography, family portraits, weddings, studio work and more. And when Bryant isn’t taking photos for work, you can find him using his equipment for fun with street and landscape photography.
Another hobby-turned-passion for Bryant was cycling. This time, the hobby started out of necessity for Bryant’s health. In 2016, he discovered he had a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where his heart muscle was abnormally thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood.
“I ended up having two open heart surgeries,” Bryant explains. “After my second surgery in November 2018, I got into cycling for weight loss so I could get heart healthy.”
Dedicated to anything he pursues, Bryant’s fitness improved over the next two years. On April 16, 2021, he was on a 20-mile ride that began and ended at his home in Montclair, Virginia.
“By mile 19, I was back in my neighborhood and decided to cycle as hard as I could,” Bryant says. “I had my head down briefly, and that’s when I smashed into the back of a work truck that I didn’t see parked along the street.”
Bryant was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia, where he learned he had sustained a C-6 and C-7 spinal cord injury.
A New Starting Line
After about two weeks in the hospital, Bryant and Trivia decided to go to Shepherd Center to begin his rehabilitation journey. He arrived at Shepherd on April 29, 2021. Trivia described the couple’s experience so far.
“Obviously, it’s been challenging, especially with it being so sudden,” Trivia says. “At the beginning, we both went through all the emotions. First numbness, then sadness and anger. Eventually, it became acceptance. We know we have got to get through this together as a team.”
Bryant and Trivia supported each other through triumphs and challenges throughout their time at Shepherd, including accepting one hopeful opportunity that was too exciting to pass up – an opportunity for Bryant to return to photography for the first time since his accident.
2021 marked the return of the AJC Peachtree Road Race and Shepherd Center Wheelchair Division after taking a hiatus due to COVID-19 in 2020. The race is the world’s largest 10K that occurs annually in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 4.
As part of his therapy, Bryant worked with Adina Bradshaw, MS, CCC-SLP, ATP, speech-language pathologist, in Shepherd’s Assistive Technology Center this summer to determine how he could use assistive technology to help him take photos and edit them again.
“During our therapy sessions, we trialed several options for camera, cell phone and tablet mounts,” Bradshaw says. “We discovered the best solutions for Bryant in multiple situations with multiple devices would be from a company called ModularHose. We could attach the various mounts to his chair depending on what he needed to do. We also partnered with Bryant’s occupational therapist to create a custom splint that will allow him to independently use his tablet stylus to edit photos on his tablet.”
Then an idea popped up: What if Bryant could use what he’d learned in therapy and apply it to a photo shoot at the AJC Peachtree Road Race? Bryant described his initial reaction to the idea as a combination of excitement and nerves.
“Initially, I was nervous before the shoot,” Bryant said. “We didn’t have a solution yet for how to hit the shutter button, so I was trying to figure that out on my own, and that’s when the nerves kicked in.”
“We got all our photography gear shipped to the hospital from Virginia for the Road Race. When the gear got here, it was nostalgic. I was excited I got the gig!”
Prior to race day, Bradshaw and Bryant worked together to properly position a sturdy modular metal mount to Bryant’s chair so that he could maneuver while also trusting that the mount would hold his heavy equipment.
Race day arrived. In the very early hours of the morning before the sun came up, Bryant, Trivia and Bradshaw set up along the road outside of Shepherd Center where spectators were gathering to watch the event. Bryant was back in his element – helped by the energy and excitement of the crowd.
“It was like I got the same rush I used to get doing photography where I’m constantly moving, constantly adjusting, to get the shot,” Bryant explains. “It was night when we first went out, and then the sun started to come up – all those things dramatically change the light, so we were flying up and down the street, changing my camera settings for almost every shot.”
At certain points of the race, Bryant situated himself in the road to get the best action shots.
“Runners were all around us, and it was amazing to be in the middle of the action,” Bryant says. “The overall energy of the people was great. There were just good vibes with people running past me, giving me the thumbs up and screaming, ‘Happy Fourth of July!’”
In addition to putting a smile on Bryant’s face, the event was great for his rehabilitation goals as well.
“Bryant was able to do 95% of the camera work completely on his own – I just helped by pressing the shutter button when he told me to,” Bradshaw says. “This was his goal, and this is his passion. It was an honor that he asked me to be his assistant for the day.”
Post-race, Bryant was happy to edit the photos and provide a selection of them to accompany this article. While the road to recovery hasn’t been easy, Bryant’s genuine, passionate spirit always shines through. He looks forward to getting back to doing the thing he loves at home.
“What gave me a sense of pride after taking photos at the race was I was able to generate something on my own and not need to ask for help,” Bryant says. “I plan to eventually get into vehicle photography after I go home. That way, my subject doesn’t move around a whole lot. I’m learning and adapting.”
For more information on the Assistive Technology Center, click here.
Written by Damjana Alverson
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.