Beautiful. Strong. Unique. Words not often associated with Down Syndrome. After seeing photographs from an exhibition that has landed at the Dublin Arts Council, you may see things differently.
“When my daughter, Billie-Jo was born, there was no positive images of Down Syndrome,” says curator of Shifting Perspectives and photographer, Richard Bailey. In the course of researching his daughter’s condition, he was disheartened by the photographs he found. Often they depictied people in institutions or disturbing images of people who simply seemed discarded. This set him and a group of UK photographers who were also parents of children with Down Syndrome, to create new images that reflected their experiences as parents. To create hope.
“What one of the main overriding ideas of the whole exhibition is to show that these are individuals. Our children are individuals. They can’t be summed up by one little box that says Down Syndrome.” says Bailey.
Shifting Perspectives shows the rich, individual lives that many with Down Syndrome have. Over the course of seven years these photographers have captured images of marriage, of spirituality, of soccer players, and magicians. Bailey: “People with Down Syndrome have aspirations; they have wants, needs, likes and dislikes, just like everybody else. [They] can fall in love, have a job, they can do all kinds of things if they have the right support behind them.”
The Dublin Arts Council and Richard Bailey held a self-portrait workshop with the local Down Syndrome community that echoed that sentiment. Richard asked the participants to show how they feel or what they are, “We had somebody who likes to play guitar, we had a [college] graduate, an Eagle Scout, somebody who liked DJ’ing…I think the main thing this [exhibition] shows is for everybody to look at the individual, and not the condition.”
“The idea was just to show the enthusiasm and the individuality and celebrate; celebrate our children.”
Shifting Perspectives is on view at the Dublin Arts Council gallery though November 4th, 7125 Riverside Drive, Dublin, Ohio. For hours and information visit their website, www.dublinarts.org. Bailey and the other photographers continue to document new images of Down Syndrome through a generous grant from GlaxoSmithKline in the UK. To find out more information and see the photographs, visit: shiftingperspectives.org.
Producer’s Note: At ArtZine, we love when people share their feelings on the work we make. We were happily surprised that the segment on Shifting Perspectives is reaching a much wider audience than we expected, and have received an outpouring of thanks. It is, no doubt, mostly due to the amazing photographs and the message behind the exhibition. We thank our viewers for sharing how this has impacted them emotionally, and humbly accept your thanks and compliments.