Thursday, 10 May 2012

Beauty and Difference - A Celebration

I love clothes, I love fashion, I love feeling wonderful in clothes I love, I love shoes, I love getting dressed up for parties, I love getting my hair done, I love the way I feel when I get dressed up and go out.  That's the girl in me.  The activist in me makes me interested in the connection between that feeling of wonderfulness and dignity.  And then I wonder why everyone, including people with disabilities shouldn't be able to have that feeling through clothing (as just one of any number of the roots of dignity and self-esteem).

When we were living in England, I began to have an idea for a photographic campaign involving high fashion and aspirational images involving people with visible differences.  (It was an idea that I shopped around, but it never went anywhere).  I was already involved with supporting Canadian designers living in London and an article was written in Chatelaine Magazine about how my husband Jim and I connected Canada, fashion, and philanthropy.  Jim and I had organized a fashion show with Brown's Boutique at our residence, involving 20 super models and 20 of the world's best designers.  In an hour and a half, with the help of a Sotheby's live auctioneer, we raised 100,000 pounds for Women for Women International - a charity that assists women recover from war through human rights training, skills acquisition and economic empowerment.  Women for Women works with our Canadian troops in Afghanistan to help women survivors of war there.  This is a photographic taken at our charity auction - I am shown wearing Canadian designer Erdem with my dear friend Joan Burstein, founder of the iconic Brown's Boutique in London.

So, yesterday, when a friend of my daughter Natalie's sent me a facebook link to a TED talk on the photographic beauty of children with disabilities, I was riveted.  Rick Guidotti is a Vogue and Elle fashion photographer with a huge body of art and couture work under his belt.  He is used to taking pictures of the world's most gorgeous women wearing the world's most beautiful clothes.  But, one day in Manhattan, he glimpsed another kind of beauty on the street.  A girl getting onto a bus had long white hair, very pale skin and blue eyes.  Later, after researching, he discovered that this mystery girl had albinism, or the absence of pigmentation in her hair and skin.  In his TED talk, Guidotti tells the fascinating and inspirational story of finding and photographing that girl from the bus stop as well as hundreds of others from around the world including Africa where albino children are sometimes murdered as witches.

But Guidotti did not stop at albinism in his search for beauty in diversity.  He has done photographic projects with all sorts of children with physical differences.  I urge you to watch his presentation.
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