Images have a transformative power. Images convey ideas in ways words can only envy. Images can change perceptions and encourage action. We can describe to someone the scientific facts of the unborn child’s development but to show them a 4-D ultrasound photo of that child will prove to be even more influential.
As a fashion photographer, Rick Guidotti (left) understood the power of images. Guidotti worked in New York City, Paris and Milan with high-profile clients like Yves St. Laurent, Revlon, L’Oreal, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and GQ. But his career took an unexpected turn when, one day on a Manhattan street, he was struck by the beauty of a woman with albinism.
Guidotti began to look into various genetic conditions and was startled to find the impersonal way in which people with genetic differences were portrayed. Where he had seen beauty, medical textbooks saw sadness and disease. At that point, Guidotti changed gears on his career and began to focus on capturing the beauty of those with genetic differences.
In an interview with NBC’s Rock Center, Guidotti said
“It’s terrifying. There are other ways to present this. I’ve spoken to so many genetic counselors that have a family in front of them and say ‘Ok, this is what your daughter is going to have. Read this.’ And they cover up the photograph because it will freak the family right out. There’s gotta be something else we can do. There’s gotta be another way to present that information to that family.”
Tragically, a prenatal diagnosis indicating a child could be born with a disability or genetic condition is often a death sentence. For example, reports show as many as 90% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. The common humanity we share with these children is often hidden by external differences with which our society is unwilling to come to terms.
“In fashion I was always frustrated because I was told who I had to photograph. I was always told who was beautiful,” said Guidotti as he headed into uncharted territory to shine light on the humanity of those with genetic conditions.
Guidotti’s work has not only had an impact on people’s perceptions but it has also been a tremendous blessing to families of people with genetic conditions.
“Rick took pictures of him the way I saw him, not the way everybody else saw him, but the way I saw him. And it was the first time I had somebody tell me how beautiful he was. He didn’t tell me he was small, he didn’t tell me he had fat cheeks from his steroids. And they were the most beautiful pictures of this blue-eyed little baby,” said one mother.
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On NBC’s Rock Center, Guidotti emphasized, “It’s not about saying, ‘Compare Claudia Schiffer or Cindy Crawford to this girl.’ It’s about–it’s about re-interpreting beauty. It’s about having an opportunity to see beyond what you’re told and what we’re forced to believe that that’s beauty.”
In acknowledging our common humanity, hopefully we can also come to respect each individual’s right to life. As members of the human family, we all have a right to be here, regardless of external differences or whether our lives are convenient. Every life is beautiful and deserves to be protected.