In early 2007 I photographed Paul Noble, who is ‘Mr January’, for a nationwide campaign to highlight the fact that many people with Down's syndrome are able and willing to work, but the opportunities for them to work are not being made available.
Many young adults with Down's syndrome enter into a kind of limbo after leaving college or training programmes, as they are finding it difficult to find any kind of employment and days that were once full become empty.
The campaign got me wondering how young adults with Down's syndrome see themselves, what they like and dislike, what they would like to be or indeed what they are.
I had some great responses and met some fabulous individuals.
Simon Beresford, ‘Mr April’, ran the London Marathon in 2007 and was celebrating his 40th birthday by running the Berlin 2007 marathon!
Joe, 'Mr December’, was very skilled and was great fun showing everybody his magic tricks during the photo shoot.
Some of the group put down simple things that they enjoyed, ranging from reading and painting, to their favourite football team or walking the dog. My favourites though are Karen who likes ironing and swearing....... and why not..... Bethan who likes going to the cinema with her friend Kitty and Tom who ‘likes being me’.
In photographing 365 children for the DS2005 calendar I hoped to show that although children with Down's syndrome shared similar characteristics, they all had their own characters and individuality, often looking more like their parents than each other.
People with Down's syndrome are often grouped together as a whole, as though they all behave in a specific ways, (‘they’re always happy aren’t they!’), as though they all have the same abilities or disability. Like anything in life, from the way one person plays football to the next, from the way one person views their religion to the next, to how fast someone can read a book and so on, everybody varies in his or her abilities and thoughts...............and so it is with an individual who has Down's syndrome.
This calendar hopefully does the same thing as the DS2005 calendar in that we can immediately see the visual differences between each individual, but more importantly we can see the different characters coming out in the way that they see themselves.
Above all we should see the individual, not the condition.