Thursday, February 10, 2011

Famed legally blind photographer, who now has MS, keeps her focus on images

Clem Richardson's column in the NY Daily News:

Flo Fox (pictured) is still taking pictures.

The multiple sclerosis she's battled since 1980 has now confined Fox to a wheelchair, immobilized most of her body and frozen her long fingers so they fold over on themselves.

That's not nearly enough to stop the former professional photographer who, though legally blind for most of her life, estimates she's taken more than 100,000 pictures over her career.

"I still get around," Fox said. "I can't take pictures myself, so I get whoever is with me to take pictures for me. I tell them what to shoot and how, to go higher, move in a little closer."

She's been a friend of Andy Warhol - that's a Warhol T-shirt she's wearing - a former tailor and stylist who designed costumes for Joseph Papp, and a guest on the "Tom Snyder Show." Today, Fox, 65, is as risqué and irreverent as ever.

"You know my greatest loss when I became disabled?" she asked. "I can't even give people the finger anymore."

Blind in her right eye, Fox described the vision in her left as "trying to see through two stockings. I can see outlines but I can't make out details."

The recent winter snows have pretty much confined Fox and home care attendant Marva Johnson to Fox's Selis Manor home, but don't take that to mean she's been idle.

Fox and her friend and fellow photographer Erica Stone still attend the monthly meetings of their "Non-Camera Club," where they and fellow club members discuss their latest projects.

"We call it the 'Non-Camera Club' because we all hate camera clubs," Fox said.

Fox had a cameo in Joan Rivers' latest documentary, "A Piece of Work," when Rivers makes a Meals on Wheels delivery to Fox's house. "I didn't get paid for it," Fox said. "I contacted the director and he said it was a documentary so no one got paid."

For the past several years Fox has been mining her still picture collection, setting them to music and posting them on YouTube under titles like "The Good Old Gays," "Grafitti" and "Madhattan!"

She's also uploaded some of her 1980s television interviews with Snyder and Regis and Kathy Lee Gifford, as well as spots for her show, "The Flo Foto Show," in which she interviewed top photographers of the day.

Fox estimates she has more than 30 10-minute videos online. "I lie in bed at night and think of new things to do," she said.

She stays active because "I'm still alive. When you become disabled, you don't waste time. You only do what is important."

Two years ago, Fox wrote a 290-page memoir ("You have to be 21 to read it," she said) after actress Kate Jackson optioned a film on her life, a project that went nowhere.

And she's happy.

"A doctor told me that when you are diagnosed with MS, you can either get depressed or be euphoric," she said. "I decided to be euphoric."

You can see Fox's work by typing her name into the search line at