Photographer Patricia Lay-Dorsey, of Grosse Pointe Farms, enjoys the music during the annual Movement Festival in downtown Detroit. Her attendance at the festival has earned her the nickname “Grandma Techno.”

Photographer Patricia Lay-Dorsey, of Grosse Pointe Farms, enjoys the music during the annual Movement Festival in downtown Detroit. Her attendance at the festival has earned her the nickname “Grandma Techno.”

Photo by Emily Swank, provided by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


Photography book captures spirit of Movement

By: K. Michelle Moran | C&G Newspapers | Published August 6, 2019

 Lay-Dorsey has assembled some of her photos from the Movement Festival into a new book that provides unique insight into this popular annual electronic music event.

Lay-Dorsey has assembled some of her photos from the Movement Festival into a new book that provides unique insight into this popular annual electronic music event.

 “They Call Me Grandma Techno,” a collection of photographs of the Movement Festival in downtown Detroit by Patricia Lay-Dorsey, focuses on the spirit of the event and attendees.

“They Call Me Grandma Techno,” a collection of photographs of the Movement Festival in downtown Detroit by Patricia Lay-Dorsey, focuses on the spirit of the event and attendees.

Photo by Patricia Lay-Dorsey

 “Grandma Techno,” Patricia Lay-Dorsey, of Grosse Pointe Farms, even has her own reserved area to view the main stage of the Movement Festival.

“Grandma Techno,” Patricia Lay-Dorsey, of Grosse Pointe Farms, even has her own reserved area to view the main stage of the Movement Festival.

Photo by Amy Hubbarth, provided by Patricia Lay-Dorsey

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DETROIT — In a sea of mostly young people, some sporting club wear and brightly hued hair, Patricia Lay-Dorsey stands out when she attends the Movement Festival in Detroit each year.

The 77-year-old Grosse Pointe Farms woman acknowledges that her age and white hair make her look like a grandmother to some of the electronic music festival attendees. But that’s not a bad thing. Having been christened “Grandma Techno” by one young attendee circa 2007, it’s a moniker she wears with pride, and an identity that has led to her being embraced by throngs of music fans from all over the globe.

“They come up to me — men, women, boys, girls — and they say, ‘I love you, Grandma Techno,’” said Dorsey from her Farms home with a warm smile. “I say, ‘I love you too.’”

A social worker, artist and activist who began photographing the world from her perspective as someone with reduced mobility — Lay-Dorsey gets around in a motorized scooter as a result of multiple sclerosis — she has assembled some of her Movement photos into a new hardcover book, “They Call Me Grandma Techno.” Although a few images showcase performers, the majority are of attendees of all ages dancing and living in the moment.

“Even if (people) don’t like electronic music, I want them to feel like they’re right in the middle of the festival,” Lay-Dorsey said. “I want them to feel the joy and the beauty of these young people.”

Published after a successful Kickstarter campaign, “They Call Me Grandma Techno” will be celebrated with a book launch this Saturday. From noon to 8 p.m. Aug. 10, Lay-Dorsey will be signing copies of the book during the inaugural Sheometry Music & Art Festival at Marble Bar in Detroit. The family-friendly, female-centered art and music event will feature entertainment, food, grassroots organizations and more; Sheometry runs from noon to 2 a.m.

Lay-Dorsey had been attending various festivals in Detroit for years when she started to go to Movement in 2005.

“I didn’t think I would like the music,” said Lay-Dorsey, whose tastes previously ran more to classical and jazz.

As it turned out, she was wrong.

“It’s the heartbeat of it,” Lay-Dorsey said of electronic music. “It’s the beat that drives some people crazy. To me, it’s that heartbeat that builds that sense of community.”

She said the music is deep, moving and, in some cases, even spiritual. The vibe is one of peace and love.

“People are just totally blissed out,” Lay-Dorsey said. “They’re never aggressive. There’s a particular techno ethos. It’s not like a rock concert at all. In all my 15 years at Movement, I’ve never seen an argument, much less a fight.”

Perhaps it’s not entirely unexpected that Lay-Dorsey might connect with this music. An active and athletic woman who formerly played sports and ran marathons, Dorsey had been a dancer since first discovering rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s.

“Whether I’m in a scooter or not, I love to dance,” she said. “I love the beat.”

Because of her mobility challenges, festival organizers have created a special spot for her — denoted with a sign — to view the Movement main stage. She said “the kids would always let me get up front” at other stages as well.

“Falling Into Place,” her 2013 self-portrait photo book, is in the library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and her photography has been exhibited around the country and as far away as China. She received the Photolucida Critical Mass 2015 Rauschenberg Residency Award. Lay-Dorsey gets recognized almost everywhere she goes.

“I’ll be scooting down the street and they’ll yell out the (car) window, ‘Grandma Techno,’” she said. “I’m very recognizable, this little white-haired woman on a scooter.”

Jesse Cory, the CEO of Detroit-based 1xRUN — which published “They Call Me Grandma Techno” — said he appreciates Lay-Dorsey’s photography and its reflection of the community.

“Patricia is one of the most passionate artists that I have had the privilege to collaborate with,” he said in an email interview. “Her dedication to the craft, shared emotions with her subjects and warm personality is what you see when you look at the photos she takes.”

Cory said Movement “provides a foundation for people across the metro area and from (other) countries to build a common bond around peace and the understanding that we’re all one.” He said Lay-Dorsey’s book reflects that, and others familiar with the book and festival agree.

Jason Clark is the co-founder of Paxahau and the creative director of Paxahau and the Movement Festival.

“I think (the book) shows a couple things very strongly,” he said in an email interview. “One, through the living example of Patricia, it shows that excitement for life/new experiences and a love for cutting-edge music do not need to diminish as you grow older! Two, through Patricia’s photos, it shows how vibrant, enthusiastic, welcoming and loving our community is. At Movement, if you love the music, we are on the same team.”

Lay-Dorsey said she wasn’t planning a book when she was taking Movement photos.

“I’m a photographer,” she said. “I don’t go there to take pictures, but I take pictures when I’m there.”

Book designer Haley Suzanne Stone said she organized the photos to best showcase Lay-Dorsey’s impactful imagery.

“For the book layout, we wanted something simple to allow Patricia’s photos to really stand out, but we also wanted to capture some of the excitement and spontaneity of the festival, so we included some variation in how the photos were placed,” Stone said in an email interview. “Some photos bleed off the page on one side, some take up the entire page, and some pages house several photos together.”

She said Lay-Dorsey’s photos are an extension of the artist herself.

“I think that Patricia is one of the most friendly and positive people I have ever met, and that really comes through in her work,” Stone said. “Her subjects are carefree and relaxed. She captures moments of connection and joy. And everyone loves to stop and chat with Grandma Techno and take a selfie together.”

Lay-Dorsey and her husband, Eddie — who have been married since 1966 — don’t have any children of their own, but she’s become a non-biological relative to more than a few Movement festivalgoers.

“They are my kids and my grandkids and my great-grandkids,” Lay-Dorsey said. “They’re my family.”

For Sheometry festival tickets or more information, visit www.sheometry.org. Copies of Lay-Dorsey’s new book can also be purchased at www.1xrun.com. For more about Lay-Dorsey and her work, visit www.patricialaydorsey.com or follow her on Instagram @patricialaydorsey.

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