Curtis J. Neeley Jr.

Very early, photography made an impact on my life. My dad worked for Eastman Kodak. One year the Christmas party included a multi-projector travel slide show. Growing up in the small town of Batesville, Arkansas, -it was amazing to see such well-executed images from around the world. Seeing everyone so enthralled, I recognized the power of visual communication and wanted to harness that power. I soon realized photography is expensive. I turned to a normal profession and went to school to become a Mechanical Engineer. I worked at TRW Vehicle Safety Systems -the world's largest manufacturer of seatbelt systems -and soon learned mechanical engineering was not for me. Later in life, a seatbelt factored prominently in my life.

Life in the USMC will change you. If you have not been there, -I can't describe it for you. If you have, -there is no need. While stationed in Okinawa Japan, I returned to my first love; Got my first good camera, and helped finance a Fuji film plant learning the ropes. I enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography and learned a lot. -By the year's end, I was shooting cover assignments for "Okinawa Today", contributing to "Stars and Stripes", as well as working as a staff photographer on the USO "Exploring Okinawa" travel guide. I spent a lot of time behind the camera that year. I made a lot of mistakes and some progress. I eventually worked my way to being a full-time commercial photographer.

I was totally disabled in a car wreck in 2002.

In that full-speed head-on car wreck, I broke my fibulas, tibias, and one femur. My pelvis was broken in six places. All my left ribs were broken. My left arm, shoulder, and five backbones were broken. When my ribs broke, several internal organs were punctured. My descending aorta was ripped away from my heart. Luckily I had on a seatbelt? During surgery to repair my heart, blood vessels had to be clamped that supply the spinal column with blood. The lack of blood flow there caused me to be roughly mid-back paralyzed. During the surgery, I suffered a stroke that ruined much use of my left arm. I have a severe traumatic brain injury due to the wreck and was expected to be lucky to have the mentality of a toddler if I did not die. I was not brain dead, but was close.


I was unresponsive and in a coma for six weeks. Having previously agreed we did not want to live via machines, my wife did a DNR order and had the respirator removed. I was not supposed to be able to breathe on my own.

I was supposed to die.

I responded to a request to give a thumbs-up if I was there. I was still dying because I couldn’t breathe. My wife then had the respirators returned for the next few weeks as I slowly emerged from my coma. The memories of my first 34 years didn’t survive completely. Many facts I learned remain. Due to my severe TBI, I communicate poorly and am more self-centered than the average artist. After four years in a wheelchair, I lost both legs above the knee because of infections. I still do photography that I consider art. I have even shot one wedding from my wheelchair. Photography is a fine art that I loved. It is a love that survived. I can no longer use my 4x5, have no legs, and one completely good arm. I left lots of photo evidence of the 34 years I do not remember fully . I intend to leave lots more evidence. Being paralyzed stinks, but beats being dead!

Can you identify the photos in my examples I did from a wheelchair with a severe brain injury? I doubt it. I have a friend who is a photographer who often assists me. She often called me a mentor. See her Fine Art or her People photographs. She often inspires me.

2619 N Quality Ln Ste 123 , Fayetteville, AR 72703 479-263-4795

“Going Forward with Photography”

Printable Proposal files
Curtis Neeley bio
Artist Statement
Artist Resume
ART Examples
      Exhibit Proposal Entry