Saturday, 13 April 2013

Shifting Perspectives 2013

As I mentioned earlier in the week, we've been very busy lately.  One day trip in particular was a special experience and deserves a post all of its own.  

We took the train down to London (which Ella hated for the first 10 minutes of the journey - really crying, saying 'gone, gone, no, no'.  At one point she even resorted to signing 'sleep' and saying 'night-night'. We managed to calm her with her crayons and her favourite snack of popcorn and dried apricots and then everything was OK and she actually enjoyed the rest of the train ride...much to the relief of the people sat around us I'm sure!).  

We combined a visit to the Southbank with the opportunity to catch up with family and friends who live in London.

The reason for our day trip was this...

Since 2005 a collective of photographers have explored the potential for photography to change perceptions and challenge people's understanding of Down's Syndrome.  

The outcome of this pioneering idea is the 'Shifting Perspectives' exhibition - a showcase of many thought provoking and beautiful pictures all showing that people with Down's Syndrome live, love, work, play and are able to contribute to their communities and society as a whole.

The exhibition has been shown every year since it began at the Oxo gallery on the Southbank in London.  Not only is this a prominent exhibition space with plenty of passing people, it also allows the work to be presented to people who may not know a lot about Down's Syndrome and who may not have set out that morning (or any morning) to learn more about it. 

I have visited part of the exhibition before as a few of the pictures were touring at Leeds University which coincided with my brothers graduation last year.  However, as it is the last year the exhibition is going to be shown at the Oxo and as it was being exhibited in its entirety, we decided to take the opportunity for a day trip.  

It was lovely and I felt very proud to have Ella with us too.  

The weather was still wintry despite it being March and the walk from Waterloo Bridge to the gallery along the Southbank was freezing! So we decided to warm up and went for lunch before heading into the exhibition.  Ella delighted us by showing off her self-feeding skills (we know she can do it - nursery tell us so!).  She shared my spaghetti bolognese and I reckon she ate more of it than I did...





We visited on a Sunday, just after lunch and found the exhibition halls very quiet, although we hear that it had been extremely busy during the week and that the preview evening was packed.  As you walked into the gallery space, this was the picture that greeted you (I took this at the Langdon Down DSA headquarters at a conference last year)...

'365 by Richard Bailey' - a montage of 365 children who represent the 1-2 babies born everyday with Down's Syndrome

The picture was at low level and Ella loved it.  She kept going back to it and you could hear her from around the gallery saying 'eye', 'nose', 'mouth' as she pointed to each face.  I was quite pleased it was quiet as Ella was rather loud and enjoyed running through the gallery spaces. We met up with both my brothers Tom & Henry, their other halves Vicki & Izzy and our friend Stewart at the gallery -  I was extremely grateful for the extra hands to help chase after Ella!





We took the opportunity of having us all in one place to get a family photo (thanks again Stewart)... Keeping Ella still was more than a little tricky - she's now in training for Tom & Vicki's wedding in September, hopefully we'll make progress (otherwise look out for the blur on all the photographs!)...

'Put me down....!'

It was strangely emotional walking round.  The wide range of pictures, words and stories on show were very thought provoking - probably more so to a parent of a child with Down's Syndrome, like me, than the general public...A glimpse of other parents fears, their hopes, experiences, photo's from the workplace, daily life, weddings, families, children with their siblings.  And the wonderful 'Safe Haven' images showing mums-to-be, all with a pre-natal diagnosis of Down's Syndrome (including our friend Emma who is mum to Henry).  

Looking at the pictures helped re-affirm that I am right to have hopes, dreams and high expectations for Ella - and I have absolutely no doubt that she'll have her own too!

The exhibition was manned by a representative from the DSA and, as the gallery was so quiet, I was able to hear some of the questions that people passing through were asking.  The two I remember are 'How does Down's Syndrome happen?' and 'Is there a cure?.'  The responses were factual and thankfully from someone who obviously knew what they were talking about.  However, it made me realise that the general public are very unaware of the basics of DS -  what it is (three copies of chromosome 21 in case you didn't know!), how it happens, why it happens or who it happens to.  I couldn't help but feel uneasy. If people wandering into a gallery are asking these questions then how are mums-to-be expected to make decisions regarding ante-natal screening?  Anyhow, I digress...

We bought the Shifting Perspectives book a while ago after I had enjoyed the iphone app so much (links later).  There was one selection of photographs that for some reason stuck with me after I first saw them... 'The Facts by Emer Gillespie'.  

A clinical textbook given to them as new parents by health professionals that laid out in bullet points the physical features of Down's Syndrome is transformed by their beautiful daughter into a visual representation of each feature (some she has and some she doesn't - like all people with DS not every feature is present)... 


Her epicanthic folds, singular palmar crease, nuchal fold.  But it's the child in the photo that captures me - the beautiful smile, vibrant red hair, fair skin and freckles.  All the little things that make up who she is - as her mum puts it - 'Laoisha is a million other things besides being a child with Down's Syndrome.'  And I guess that's exactly what I want for Ella - people to see her first and not the fact she has Down's Syndrome. 

Another favourite part of the exhibition was, what we have now called, the 'doodle room'.  Lester Magoogan is an artist who produces humorous, evocative and simple line drawings and was the first person to receive the 'Princess Diana Memorial Award'. He also has Down's Syndrome.  

In the middle of the room where his artwork was on display there was a table. And paper. And pens.... Cue some good fun (and a bit of mess)!...



Yup... she ate the pen...



'Star'


We really enjoyed the exhibition and I'm glad we made the trip to see it.  Shifting Perspectives will soon be touring and you can find out more about where it will be and when on the Down's Syndrome Association website


There is also an ipad/iphone app which is free and contains a good selection of the photographs in the collection.  You can find it in the iTunes store or visit the exhibition webpage:


And if you want something for your coffee table that you can pick up and browse through then there's now also the Shifting Perspectives book which you can find using your favourite bookstore:


We were all ready for a coffee and headed back down the Southbank and landed at the British Film Institute.  My cousin Rachel and her family came and joined us.  It was lovely to see them all and meet baby Adam for the first time... Stewart, Ian & Tom did a great job at keeping the toddlers entertained, with the help of some props and snacks...

 

All too soon, it was time to head for home.  I even got some quiet time on the train....


Another busy weekend awaits, have a good one everyone xx


























1 comment:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...