Bradley Weiss prosecuted government contractors accused of fraud in Washington, D.C., in 1999 when he developed Parkinson’s disease after a toxic injection during nasal surgery.
He moved home to Chicago and eventually became of counsel at Miner, Barnhill & Galland P.C. to represent plaintiffs in civil rights and employee rights litigation.
He worked at the firm until 2010 when Parkinson’s symptoms prevented him from practicing law.
“I was a very good communicator. I used to speak well, used to do teaching, lecturing. I did lobbying for the government. I did all kinds of stuff,” Weiss said. “When I lost the ability to do all that stuff, I felt I couldn’t represent my clients like I should.
“So I began to segue into something else — arts.”
Weiss, 58, picked up a camera in 2004 during a trip to France. He came home with about 3,000 photos.
Two years later, he went to Colombia and captured images of mountains, ranches and residents. More photography trips followed in Mexico, New York and Costa Rica.
“I’ve always been creative, but I never knew I could shoot until I tried it,” Weiss said. “And the more I shot, the more support I got for it.”
In January, he brought his Costa Rica photos, which documented the village and people of Montezuma, to the Chicago Photography Center. Twenty-five of those photos — and some of his others — were displayed Thursday at a reception at Mars Gallery, 1139 W. Fulton Market, that attracted about 250 people.
The gallery will show Weiss’ photos through June 21. Twenty percent of all sales will benefit Rush University Medical Center.
Miner, Barnhill & Galland co-sponsored the event. Weiss said the firm became like family after Parkinson’s symptoms appeared.
“That firm has been there for me from start to finish,” Weiss said.
William A. Miceli, co-managing partner at the firm, called Weiss “remarkable.”
“He’s never lost his focus on work and has persevered with the disease,” Miceli said. “It really has not affected his heart and desire to be productive. And that has been an inspiration.”
As a lawyer, Weiss showed creative skills in cases, Miceli said.
“He is the kind of lawyer that can see relationships and put together a narrative that will support the prosecution of a case. That’s really what he brings. He brings the creative element in the process,” Miceli said.
Weiss will donate a percentage of his sales to Rush because that’s where he recently underwent treatments.
With “deep brain stimulation,” surgeons drilled two holes in his head in December. The following month, they connected wires from his head to a device implanted in his chest.
With another device that Weiss wears on his waist, he can send electric charges to his brain to help stimulate movement.
Shortly after the treatment, Weiss could use his hands freely again and walk without a cane. He could eat whatever meals he wanted. A week after the treatment, he went dancing late into the night.
He admitted that he faces dark days, but he talks about them in a matter-of-fact tone — without any hint that he’s looking for sympathy.
“You work through it day by day,” Weiss said. “Planning for the future is almost impossible. You don’t know what the future is going to be.”
His photos — samples are available at zumaarts.com — provide something that Parkinson’s can’t take away.
“It’s an ability,” Weiss said, “to communicate.”