This photo series is challenging the stereotypes of people with Down syndrome

Business Insider Lifestyle 1 month ago

Tara Hart wishes more people understood that her 5-year-old daughter, Noelle, is just like every other child — and more than her Down syndrome.

"She's perfect because of her Down syndrome, not in spite of it," Hart told Insider.

Noelle is one of 51 individuals to be featured in a photo series called "More to Me," which aims to shatter some common stereotypes of adults and children with Down syndrome. Hart is the co-chair of the Waterloo Regional Down Syndrome Society, an organization in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, that publishes the annual photo series and calendar.

"Some of the biggest misconceptions are that individuals with Down syndrome can't actively contribute to society, that their lives are somehow valued less, and that they're happy all the time," Hart said. 

Behind the lens was Hilary Gauld-Camilleri, who's captured photos for the campaign since it began five years ago.

Gauld-Camilleri told Insider that her goal with the theme "More to Me" was to capture the personalities of children and adults with Down syndrome, as well as to illuminate the experiences of their family members.

"The project is not only about the children, but also about the families and the intense love and commitment, as well as the challenges and the triumphs that they go through," she said.

Keep reading to see a selection of the campaign's stunning portraits.

The "More to Me" photo series features portraits of 51 children and adults with Down syndrome.

One mission of the "More to Me" project is to dispel the myth that children and adults with Down syndrome are happy all the time, Hart explained.

"We wanted to focus on the deeper aspects of life as well, not just focusing on happy smiles," Hart said.

Leading up to Canada's Down Syndrome Awareness Week, new photos from the series are published daily, along with powerful quotes from family members or individuals.

"People with Down syndrome are very capable and should be provided with opportunities to prove their abilities," said the family of Bandagi, pictured here.

"Though my language and communication skills may be different from yours, I can understand the things you tell me and the moments we share, just like any other person," Caleb's family said on behalf of their son, pictured here.

"People with Down syndrome have the ability to make meaningful contributions to their communities," said Emma's family.

"Some people said I would never learn to take the city bus. I prove them wrong every time I go to work. I love to take the bus!" said Colin, pictured here.

Hart, whose daughter is featured in the organization's photo series, said she wants people to shift their focus from "the downside of Down syndrome" and celebrate each individual for who they are.

The photo series also aims to show a side of individuals with Down syndrome that isn't often portrayed in media and culture.

Gauld-Camilleri said being behind the lens of the photo series for five years has opened her eyes.

"It's been incredible for me to know that people are stopping and looking at these portraits and feeling something," Gauld-Camilleri said.

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