Step by Step

Photographs by Stephen Petegorsky

Valley Photo Center, Tower Square 1500 Main St, Springfield, MA 01103

March 1-31, Tu-Fri 11 am-2 pm, Opening reception March 1, 6-8 pm

Since 1998, Stephen Petegorsky has been documenting the work of the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, a small human services agency that seeks to improve the lives of victims of conflict and people with disabilities. He has traveled with them to Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru, Colombia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Tajikistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Their efforts have led to the creation of prosthetics clinics, a leadership institute for people with disabilities, a fund to assist landmine victims in coffee-growing countries, and a rehabilitation center serving Syrian refugees.

The aim of this ongoing body of photographic work is not simply to show the horror or sadness of limb loss and disability, but rather to create a compassionate view of people who have suffered, and to depict the efforts being made to help them lead better lives.

People with disabilities in poor countries are typically at a severe disadvantage regarding employment, mobility, and access to their community. Losing a limb often means losing the ability to earn a living, to get an education, or to acquire new job skills. Thus the possibility of receiving a prosthetic limb, a wheelchair, or other forms of assistance is of life-changing significance to individuals, their families, and their communities. It can determine whether someone can rebuild his or her life and be self-reliant, or if they will instead remain dependent and indigent.

Stephen Petegorsky is an artist and freelance photographer based in Florence, Massachusetts. Born in New York City, he graduated from Amherst College and later received his M.F.A. in Photography from Rhode Island School of Design. He has taught at Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Connecticut.

His work has been exhibited internationally and is in collections throughout this country as well as in Europe.