Photo assignment: Richard Reed, musician

1 09 2010

I recently returned from a photography assignment in Providence, Rhode Island. I was contracted by Cochlear Americas to photograph Richard Reed, a full-time musician who wears a cochlear implant and is the developer of HOPE Notes, a cochlear implant music appreciation program.

HOPE Notes (from the Cochlear Americas website)
“HOPE Notes is the first of its kind—a program uniquely developed for cochlear implant and hearing aid users designed to help improve music perception and appreciation using original songs, traditional Folk, Blues & Country styles and some familiar tunes played in unexpected ways. HOPE Notes includes a CD, DVD, and a detailed User Guide including lyrics designed to assist and enrich your use of the program. The DVD incorporates both visual and audio cues while the CD (designed for use on the go) focuses solely on the audio component of the program.”

To learn more about HOPE Notes or to order, contact Cochlear at 1-(800)-523-5798 or check out their website here.

A Life Without Sound
A late-deafened adult, Richard lost his hearing due to an ototoxic antiobiotic he was given to treat peritonitis in the early 1990s, when he was in his mid-30s. His hearing loss progressed from mild to profound over the next two years. Read more about his hearing loss in Rick Massimo‘s insightful article in The Providence Journal here. Carolyn Smaka from AudiologyOnline interviewed Richard in July. It’s an excellent introduction to Reed’s hearing loss as well as the development of HOPE Notes. Check out her interview here.

When I asked Richard what it was like as a full-time musician to not be able to continue in the field, he told me about playing one night after his hearing loss. “While deaf and using useless powerful digital hearing aids, I used to sit in with my brother Tom in various Blues bands or with old friends. I could feel the bass and drums—thought I could hear myself a little. One night in Newport, it became painfully obvious just how little music I could actually hear. During a piano solo, a cord to my amplifier came loose, but I kept right on playing—with no sound coming out!”

After he retired from performing, he worked in his sister Roberta‘s antique store “refinishing and painting warped and wild folk art furniture, which was therapeutic but unfulfilling.” He wore hearing aids during this time, but didn’t pursue the cochlear implant until 2002. Richard wrote, What It Feels Like…to Regain Your Hearing, in a 2007 issue of Esquire magazine here.

Return to Music
After receiving his Nucleus 24 Contour CI in 2002, Richard noticed a significant improvement in his ability to hear and understand speech, but found listening to music frustrating. With patience, practice and the help of his aural therapist, music became a source of joy again. Not long after his CI was activated, he stayed away from playing the piano because to him it sounded out of tune. He had to go back to the basics with scales and eventually made enough progress to start playing with bands again. Learn more about his journey back to the hearing world in the article, Hero Spotlight: Richard Reed, available on Cochlear Americas website here. In that article, he says, “As ironic as it was for a musician to go deaf, I realized, too, how many friends’ conversations revolved around music—what’s new, who’s good, who’s playing where. Losing music was horrible, but the loss of everyday conversation was worse.”

At Long Last—I’m a Band Groupie!
On my assignment for Cochlear Americas a few weekends ago, I was honored and excited to photograph Richard and a few of his fellow musicians at The Music Complex in Pawtucket, R.I.

His brother, Tom Reed, plays bass. At just 13, Tom taught Richard, then 12, his first songs on the organ. Tom plays freelance—backing up various bands from week to week—and teaches private lessons. He plays electric bass in R&B bands, and upright bass for Blues, Jazz and Rockabilly. He recorded some bass parts for Richard’s HOPE Notes project. (Photo, left to right: Mark Cutler, Jack Moore, Tom Reed and Richard Reed)

Drummer Jack Moore, a high school teacher by day, has played with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Roomful of Blues and many others. He currently plays with Robert Graves Leonard’s Slippery Sneakers, a Rhode Island-based Zydeco band.

Acclaimed guitarist and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Mark Cutler‘s latest CD is Red. He has been the lead singer and songwriter for such renown rock bands as The Schemers, The Raindogs, and The Dino Club, and has toured with Warren Zevon, Bob Dylan and many others. The Providence Phoenix recently profiled Mark here. Cutler works in the software business during the week and reserves his very busy weekends for gigs with various ensembles. You’ll find Mark Cutler videos on youtube here. Richard has played many gigs as one of Mark’s sidemen—before going deaf and again post-CI.

Today, Richard plays two to three times a week in New England nightclubs, concerts and recording sessions. When not performing, he travels the world to lecture about his hearing loss experience and “CI music.” He recently returned from Europe, and played squeezebox on two-time Grammy award-winning children’s singer/songwriter Bill Harley‘s newest CD, tentatively titled Songs We Sing. Future travel plans include CI Music Workshops in Salt Lake City in November, Toronto and Orlando in February, then back to the UK in March. Richard is playing with Mark Cutler in a reunion of their old band, The Schemers, in Newport at an autumn festival next month. He says, “this time I’ll hear my piano parts!” When I asked him what inspired him to create HOPE Notes, he said, “it was a way to give CI users simple exercises to learn or relearn some basic songs and tonalities.” He has already starting writing songs for Volume II.

Upcoming Feature in Hearing Loss Magazine
Reed has written an article about his hearing loss and the development of HOPE Notes that will be published in the upcoming November/December 2010 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America. Donna Sorkin, Vice President of Consumer Affairs for Cochlear Americas, will contribute sidebars about strategies to appreciate music and another titled, “What the Research Says…and Why it Doesn’t Matter.” Some of the images from my photo session will appear in her feature article. Cochlear Americas manufactures Nucleus cochlear implants and the Baha programmable bone conduction system. My otolaryngologist, Dr. John Niparko of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, says that I am a candidate for the Baha system.

Behind-the-Scenes Photo Notes
For the jam session photos, I used the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS)—with three Nikon Speedlights (with color-correcting gels)—an SB-900 fitted with an Alzo Mini Softbox as my main light, an SB-800 on the Nikon D300 as the trigger and an SB-600 on the side with a snoot. For the portraits with the beige background (shot in Richard’s home), I used my Nikon SB-800 Speedlight fitted with a Ray Flash, which replicates the lighting effect produced by more expensive studio ring flash units. It produces a shadowless light on your subject and a soft even shadow around the edges. I was very happy with the results of the ring flash in this session. If you’d like to try this type of lighting, check out the Coco Ring Flash Adapter—at just $49.95 on Amazon, it’s well below the $199 I paid for my Ray Flash a few years ago. (Hmmm….which product came first?—The Coco Ring Flash is an almost exact replicate—but I do agree with many of the online reviewers that, for a non-electronic, purely plastic gadget, the Ray Flash is still overpriced at $199. Having said that, I did buy it and am happy with it. When it first came out, it was listed for $299.99. It’s plastic people, plastic—no electronic parts, no cords, nothing—as one reviewer commented, “they were probably shamed into dropping the price.”). At any rate, whether you splurge on the Ray Flash or spring for the “poor man’s” version (which I was unaware of at the time of my purchase)—the Coco Ring Flash—it’s a really fun gadget to add to your photographic arsenal.

Want to learn more about the Nikon Creative Lighting System? Check out the Nikon School Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting DVD, featuring photographers Bob Krist and Joe McNally. Joe McNally’s book, The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes, is an excellent resource as well. A lighting workshop with this master is definitely on my to-do checklist! Check out McNally’s excellent blog here and Bob Krist’s elegant website here. And for really comprehensive information on lighting, bookmark David Hobby’s blog, Strobist.

Whew! And finally, special thanks to my photo mentor, Brian Loflin, for his tips, troubleshooting and advice…and to Michael Schwehr for his service as my most excellent photo assistant.

All photos are by Cindy Dyer © 2010 Cochlear, Ltd.







Hearing Loss Magazine, 2009 recap

1 01 2010

The first issue in 2010 of the Hearing Loss Magazine, published by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), will arrive in member mailboxes in about a week. I design the bimonthly magazine and provide photography services as well. Reflecting back on 2009, we profiled Dr. Mark Ross, audiologist and regular contributing Hearing Loss Magazine author; Jennifer Cheng, an epidemiologist and competitive cyclist; Dr. Vinton Cerf, also known as the “Father of the Internet,” and his wife, Sigrid; Ret Cpt Mark Brogan and his wife, Sunny; and Deanne Bray, who stars in the NBC series, Heroes. These cover subjects are in the links below. To view the corresponding pdf links, click on the link, then on the same link again in the next window. The pdf should begin to download and open automatically.

January/February 2009: Dr. Mark Ross is an audiologist and recipient of HLAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2008. Dr. Ross received his BA and MA from Brooklyn College in 1957 and 1958 and his PhD from Stanford University in 1962. He is a professor emeritus in audiology at the University of Connecticut, and has also worked as a clinical audiologist, a director of a school for the deaf and as director of research and training at the NY League for the Hard of Hearing. He is currently serving as a consultant to the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center at Gallaudet University. Ross is a regular contributor to Hearing Loss Magazine. His article in this issue, Revisiting the Perennial Question: What is the “Best” Hearing Aid?, is available for download here: BestHearingAid. Also in this issue, Dr. John Niparko and cochlear implant audiologist Courtney Carver‘s article, Successful Aging and Our Hearing, which can be downloaded here: NiparkoCarverFeature. (Dr. Niparko just happens to be my wonderful otolaryngologist, and the “model” in this feature is Fred Anzaldua, a family friend and HLAA member from San Antonio, Texas.) Cover photograph of Dr. Mark Ross © Cindy Dyer

March/April 2009: HLAA’s annual convention was held in Nashville, Tennessee, June 18-21, 2009. HLAA also celebrated its 30th birthday in 2009. Dr. Vinton Cerf, a “Father of the Internet,” was the Opening Session keynote speaker. Dr. Cerf was our cover feature for the May/June 2009 issue (see next entry). Nashville was a fantastic venue for the event! You can view the schedule of workshops, speakers, and social event for Convention 2009 here:  Convention2009Teaser. This issue also featured an excellent article titled, Why is Everyone So Mad? Getting a Grip on Hearing Loss. Author Sam Trychin is a lecturer at Penn State. Dr. Trychin conducts training programs, classes, and workshops for people who are hard of hearing, their families, and professionals who provide services to them. Trychin’s article can be downloaded here: WhyIsEveryoneSoMad

May/June 2009: In March 2009 I had the immense pleasure of meeting and photographing Dr. Vinton Cerf and his wife, Sigrid, for the cover and interview by HLAA member and freelance writer Barbara Chertok, who is a former speechreading and lipreading teacher as well as a bilateral cochlear implant recipient. Dr. Cerf is a hearing aid wearer and Sigrid is a binaural cochlear implant recipient. Dr. Cerf is currently vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google. (Sigrid’s otolaryngologist is also Dr. John Niparko, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, Maryland.) Learn more about Dr. Cerf and Sigrid in my May 10, 2009 posting here. Read Barbara Chertok’s interview with the Cerf’s here: DrVintonSigridCerf. This issue also included an article titled, Music, MP3 Players and Hearing Health, by Patricia M. Chute, an audiologist and dean of the School of Health and Natural Sciences at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York. This article is a must-read for adults and parents of children who use MP3 players incessantly! Read Chute’s article here: MP3HearingHealth. Cover photograph of Vinton and Sigrid Cerf © Cindy Dyer

July/August 2009: Jennifer Cheng, a competitive cyclist and infectious diseases epidemiologist from Washington, D.C., was our cover subject and author of the article, Racing With (Not Through) My Hearing Loss, in this month’s issue of Hearing Loss Magazine. Jen was diagnosed with progressive sensorineural hearing loss at age 17 and wears a hearing aid. Born and raised in Seattle, she graduated from George Washington University with a Master of Public Health degree in International Health in 2005. She is a competitive road cyclist for Team CycleLife powered by Specialized, a promoter of women’s cycling and racing in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Cheng received the HLAA Outstanding Young Adult Award at HLAA’s Convention 2009 in Nashville. You can read Jennifer Cheng’s article in the link here: JenniferChengFeature. Also in this issue—an article by Dr. Mark Ross titled, Listening to Music Through Hearing Aids: The Music Program, available for download here: MusicThroughHearingAids Cover photograph of Jennifer Cheng © Cindy Dyer

September/October 2009: Ret Cpt Mark Brogan and his wife, Sunny, were profiled in an article by Barbara Kelley, editor of Hearing Loss Magazine. I had the immense honor of meeting and photographing Mark and Sunny in June during HLAA’s Convention 2009 in Nashville. Mark shared his story (along with scars and his amazing Purple Heart tattoo, courtesy of Miami Ink)—it was a humbling experience for me. Mark was also a guest speaker at Convention 2009. He was a United States Calvary Officer in A Troop, 4th Squadron 14th Calvary, 172 Stryker Brigade Combat team, deployed from Fort Wainwright, Alaska to Iraq to lead a platoon of infantry soldiers. A TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor, Mark was wounded while on a foot patrol in the Al Anbar Province in Iraq, on April 11, 2006. In addition to the injuries to his skull and arm, his right eardrum was perforated and he has severe-to-profound hearing loss. He wears hearing aids in both ears. Mark was medically retired in 2007. He is a veterans’ advocate and a commander in the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 356 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Read about Mark’s incredible journey from intensive rehab to reconstructing his life, in his blog here. Read a downloadable pdf of Barbara Kelley’s feature article on Mark Brogan here: MarkBroganFeature Also in this issue—an investigative article by Dr. Mark Ross titled, “What About that Thing I Saw on TV that Helps You Hear Better? It’s only $14.99!” is available for download here: SoundAmpProducts Cover photograph of Mark and Sunny Brogan © Cindy Dyer

November/December 2009: Actress Deanne Bray was interviewed by Barbara Kelley, Hearing Loss Magazine editor, in an article titled, Deanne Bray: A Hearing Loss ‘Hero’. Bray was most recently known for her starring role in the PAX-TV series, Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye. The show was loosely based on the true experiences of Sue Thomas, a woman with a profound hearing loss, who worked for the FBI in 1978 doing undercover surveillance by reading lips. Deanne’s latest role is that of Emma, in the NBC hit series, Heroes. Deanne has a severe hearing loss (70 dB to 90 dB) and wears a hearing aid in her left ear. She reads lips to augment what sounds the hearing aid provides. She also uses sign language, assistive listening devices, and captioning to navigate her personal and professional life as an actress. She is married to Troy Kotsur, an actor who is Deaf. Troy was on the Lifetime series, Strong Medicine, and guest starred in Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye. He was also on a special Deaf themed episode (December 13, 2008) of CSI: NY, and an episode of Scrubs. They have a four-year-old daughter, Kyra Monique. Learn more about Deanne on her website here. Read Barbara Kelley’s interview with Deanne here: DeanneBrayInterview. Also in this issue—Author Nan Johnson describes her history of progressive hearing loss and her decision to seek a second implant, in her article: Going Bilateral with Cochlear Implants: A Personal Trip to “Stereophonic Hearing,” available for download here: GoingBilateralCochlear Cover photograph of Deanne Bray by Felicity Murphy.

Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, Costco membership, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.