Restoring a photographer’s steady hand

San Antonio photographer Kevin Saunders had just completed the most ambitious project of his career — a series of images called “Turning Point” that captured San Antonio’s five missions at the time of their induction as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Saunders work involves finely detailed images that can be reproduced in sizes as large as 50 feet long but with remarkable clarity. His equipment is complex —and definitely requires two hands.

That need for two hands was tested as he pulled out of his studio in the Blue Star complex just south of downtown in early May.

“I was at a blind corner and wasn’t looking close enough,” he said. “I pulled out, and a guy in a Ford Expedition who was speeding hit the front of my car right there on South Alamo Street and swung it around 90 degrees.”

The crash tossed his body into the car door, shattering his left hand on the handle and dislocating his shoulder.

“I was reading about boxer’s fractures, which is basically what this is,” he said. “if it’s not repaired right you can really mess that hand up. I was concerned because this was potentially a career-limiting injury.”

Saunders, whose wife is a nurse at University Health System, directed him to Dr. Fred Corley, a hand surgeon and professor of orthopedics at the University of Texas Health Science Center, who practices at University Health System. The injury did not require surgery. Still, Saunders was understandably nervous.

“These guys, the whole team, were able to understand exactly how important having two hands was for me. They made sure the rotation of the bones were right and figured out what I was going to need to recover. Of course, it’s a normal procedure for them, but for me at this point it my career it was a really big deal.”

With his hand now mending nicely, Saunders can look to the future. The first large set of his Turning Point collection — which he produced at the suggestion of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff — has been purchased by Brooks City-Base for the new Embassy Suites Hotel. A coffee table-sized book is in the works. And Saunders is hoping other civic leaders will invest in the collection to keep or donate as a way to cement the city’s history and legacy as a World Heritage site.