As the proud parent of a child with Down’s syndrome, Caroline Turner knows everyday life can sometimes throw up something of a contradiction.
On the one hand, like any other parent, you want to shout your child’s achievements from the rooftops. At the same time you want those milestones to be considered so typical by wider society that no one even bats an eyelid.
That’s part of the message captured in a unique North-east photo exhibition visiting Stockton Riverside College.
Caroline’s three-year-old son, Leo, is one of the models. The Norton mum said: “It’s all about raising awareness of how the lives of people with Down’s syndrome can be as varied as anyone else’s.”
Made up of a collection of pictures by creative photographer, Kayla Wren, “Look at me” captures 37 people from across the North-east celebrating a part of their life that matters to them.
With models aged from just a few months to 38 years old, themes include everything from careers to relationships, sporting achievements and favourite hobbies. The fact that all the models have Down’s syndrome rapidly becomes an aside.
Caroline is a trustee and member of Down’s Syndrome North East (DSNE), the organisation showing the exhibition in venues across the region.
She said: “The aim of the project is to show that, like all of us, children and adults with Down’s syndrome are unique, valuable individuals with their own emotions, experiences and ambitions in life.
“The exhibition is about seeing beyond the fact that the models have Down’s syndrome and instead seeing a snapshot into their lives and recognising their achievements.”
On show at Bede Sixth Form College last month and now displayed at Stockton Riverside College, the display has formed part of the college’s Respect Festival, an annual event giving students the chance to learn and understand from those around them, sharing cultures and important messages about equality and diversity.
Welcoming the collection to Stockton, Campus Principal, Lesley Graham, said: “We are privileged to bring Down Syndrome North East’s “Look at Me” exhibition to our students and staff.
“It is such a powerful message and one that means so much to us as a college where we regularly see our own students, including those with Down’s syndrome, working towards, and achieving, their personal goals and ambitions.”
Created in 2017, “Look at Me” had originally been intended as a one year project but it was so well received the exhibition has continued to run. The display at Stockton Riverside College also includes a collection of six portraits by photographer Kayla Wren, titled Chromosome21 – Defying Prejudice, recreating classic paintings.
DSNE’s Caroline said: “Things are changing, there’s more awareness of Down’s syndrome with people’s place in society increasingly depicted in the media, but in wider society there’s still more to be done.
“The exhibition captures people living ordinary lives. It is a great way to enable us all to see beyond what is an extra chromosome in the body, which is quite a small thing really.”
DSNE offers help and support to all people with Down’s syndrome, their families and friends. To find out more visit: www.dsne.org.uk