OREM -- A toddler stands atop a platform and holds to handrails on either side of her. She looks carefully at her feet as she practices walking, supported from behind by a dark-haired man.
The black and white photograph is part of Michael Ririe's exhibit of images from the Now I Can Physical Therapy Center. Ririe, a senior in Utah Valley University's photography program put together the exhibit as part of his BFA project. But it's not his art he wants you to notice: it's the work of the kids in the photos.
"They're powerful. They are touching. They are emotional…they represent determination," Ririe said. "I hope these photographs are a tribute to them and what they are accomplishing."
A year ago, Ririe began to document the patients at Now I Can, a physical therapy center for kids with cerebal palsy and other neuromuscular challenges. It was a project that quickly turned personal.
"I wanted to make sure I was pulled back so I wasn't messing up the therapy," Ririe said. "The children wouldn't let me do that for long. …Within a few shots, I was on the mat with them. They knew me by name and had nicknames for me. And we got to know each other really well. It made the photographs that much more personal."
Through February Admission is free Scera Center for the Arts 745 South State Street, Orem Books may be purchased directly from Michael Ririe or from Now I Can.
Some photos show the challenges of therapy, capturing tears streaming down the faces of kids, working harder than they ever have. But even the most painful pictures portray progress and a personal look into the child's life -- like the shots of little Issac who took his first steps in front of Michael's camera.
"I got to know some of my best friends and heroes doing this," Ririe said.
Tracey Christensen is co-founder of Now I Can, and she calls the images and the children in them inspiring.
"These kids are so determined, they want to reach those goals," Christensen said. "They want to be able to crawl on their own or to stand on their own, or to walk on their own."
She has strong feelings about the photographer who took the time to get to know patients, like her daughter Colby, too.
"He was able to be so close and so personal and they were uninhibited and he loves these children," she said. "And I love that about him."
The "Now I Can" exhibit is on display at the Scera Center for the Arts in Orem, and it runs through the end of the month. The photos have also been compiled into a beautiful book, with patients' stories. Proceeds benefit the charitable therapy Now I Can offers.