An exciting new exhibition created by Down’s Syndrome North East (DSNE) is currently on show at Tyne Metropolitan College (TyneMet).
The exhibition is part of a project ‘Look at Me’ which aims to raise awareness of Down’s syndrome in a positive way.
Thirty-six volunteers with the condition were photographed for the Look at Me display and their A4 images framed and hung prominently on college walls.
The installation aims to help dispel myths and negative stereotypes about Down’s syndrome and to show that those diagnosed with it share the same range of emotions, hopes and aspirations as the rest of the population.
Those photographed range in age from just weeks old to late 30s and were snapped by talented professional photographer Kayla Wren over two days at her studio at Junkyard Creative in Dean Street, Newcastle.
The exhibition will be on show at TyneMet until the end of May, having already enjoyed great success touring other regional venues.
‘Look at Me’ has attracted thousands of visitors since the images were first shown last December and comments made in the accompanying ‘Look at Me – What do you see?’ book demonstrate the hugely positive impact it is having on the public.
The exhibition has already visited Sunderland Minster, Gosforth Civic Theatre, Hartlepool College and Durham Town Hall.
DSNE are hoping other venues will contact them to volunteer to host the exhibition so that it can be seen across the North East of England.
Ros Collinson a Trustee and Committee member of DSNE, whose son Andrew features, said ‘People with Down’s syndrome are unique individuals with a lot to give to the world.
“The enthusiastic models were all asked to come and give their favourite pose or to be photographed in a way important to them – each image says, ‘this is me’.
“People will look at the photographs and make their own interpretations.
“We aimed to do something that would raise awareness of Down’s syndrome and also of our charity Down’s Syndrome North East.
“We also wanted to encourage people with Down’s syndrome to have pride in themselves and their achievements and to value themselves whatever their ability.
“When my son was born 38 years ago there was very little information and it was usually negative.
“If I had seen this exhibition it would have inspired me and given me hope and let me know that I was not alone in my journey.”
Audrey Kingham, Principal of TyneMet, said: ‘Look at Me is a wonderfully powerful and emotive exhibition and one that can’t help but make the viewer think deeply about its subject matter.
“It is important that people are seen from the viewpoint of who they are as individuals rather than by any other consideration.
“The exhibition succeeds well in showing that people with Down’s syndrome have their own unique lives to live and stories to tell.
“I hope it has helped open the eyes of our students even more to what it means to have this condition.”
A poster featuring all 36 models has been produced as part of the awareness raising initiative and is being distributed at a wide range of venues across the region.
Ros, who lives in Durham, also hopes DSNE will be able to seek funding to produce an A4 sized book featuring the photographs.
A copy would be given to parents of children newly diagnosed and also sold to raise funds for the charity.
Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition and affects people of all ages, races, religions and economic conditions.
There are currently approximately 40,000 people with Down’s syndrome in the UK.
DSNE is the region’s leading organisation for the help and support of people with the condition and their family and friends and is run entirely by volunteers.
It covers Northumberland, Tyneside, Wearside, Durham and Teesside. More information on Down’s Syndrome North East can be found at www.dsne.org.uk