Reframing beauty

Grace, a smiling second grader

Picture of Grace by Rick Guidotti as featured in the NBC article

A coworker passed along an NBC article/photo spread the other day, and the vivid image of a girl named Grace drew me right in. I was hooked, and I hadn’t even read the article yet!

Once I got to reading, I learned that Grace is a social second grader who’s nicknamed “The Queen.” Grace has Down syndrome, but this image was not about Grace’s disability. It was about the beauty of her ear-to-ear grin. I scrolled down the page and was greeted by more powerful images of happy kids and teens in their element.

The photographer responsible for these beautiful photos is Rick Guidotti. Guidotti has spent the last 15 years of his career taking stunning pictures of people with disabilities. He was inspired to take these photographs after flipping through a medical journal about genetic disorders. Shocked at the lack of humanity the images displayed, he made it his mission to change the way society looks at people who may not fit the conventional beauty mold.

I watched the newscast that went with the article and was inspired by Guidotti’s passion for his work. His face lights up when he talks about how gorgeous and amazing the people he photographs are, and now he is persuading doctors to reevaluate the outdated images in their journals. “The idea is to put that humanity into medicine. To make sure we don’t see a diagnosis, but a human being,” Guidotti said. He wants people to see those with differences not as victims, but kids and people first and foremost.

The NBC piece was touching and left me yearning for more. During my lunch breaks I discovered more about this amazing photographer and his mission. I learned that Guidotti left behind his life in New York City and Paris (working for the likes of Elle and GQ) to start Positive Exposure, a non-profit organization that is described on its web site as “utilizing photography and video to transform public perceptions of people living with genetic, physical and behavioral differences – from albinism to autism.” I encourage everyone to look through Positive Exposure’s gallery of photos. Guidotti’s work is crucial in a society where photoshopped models dictate what “beauty” is. These images convey more beauty and power than any fashion magazine can.


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