Photographer Hilary Gauld partnered with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society to capture the beauty of love among people with Down syndrome.
Love has no labels and a new photo project titled "Love Means" aims to capture the affection of people with Down syndrome. Photographer Hilary Gauld partnered with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) to raise awareness and understanding of the way people view those with Down syndrome. As part of the series, 15 people with Down syndrome opened up about what love means to them and how they experience it. Gauld said the project was aimed at capturing "their love for the world to see, and to make more space for other love stories in mainstream media," reported PEOPLE. The Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) is a nonprofit organization focused on human rights, health, social participation, inclusive education and employment for those with Down syndrome. “Everybody needs someone to love and have a warm hug. It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Paige, one of those featured in the project.
CDSS launched the initiative to remove misconceptions about the lives of people with Down syndrome. According to Down Syndrome International, the condition occurs in one of every 800 live births. "Having the opportunity to meet these couples and individuals, hearing their stories, and watching their interactions meant a lot to me," said Gauld. She has captured images of single adults, heterosexual couples and members of the LGBTQ community. Some of those featured as part of the project include Paige and Tyler, who have been a couple for the past eight years; best friends Jessica and Matt; new couple Krystal and Tammy; single queer woman Ren; and Kirk and Beth, who have been in a relationship for the past 12 years.
Gauld released the images through her Instagram page, coinciding with World Down Syndrome Day on March 21. "My hope is that these stories and visuals simply inspire, educate and create the space for greater visibility of the experiences adults with Down syndrome navigate, including love," said Gauld, who has spent over eight years photographing children and adults with Down syndrome.
The images captured as part of the series feature stories of those who either have Down syndrome or are in a relationship with someone who does. Gauld said the idea was to be inclusive and showcase love through the eyes of different people. “The goal of the project is that these stories and visuals inspire, educate, and create space for greater visibility of the experiences adults with Down syndrome navigate, including love,” said Gauld in a statement, reported AdWeek. “These are just some stories and visuals of how love, both platonic and romantic, can exist but are not the same for everyone—because no community is a monolith."
CDSS said there was rarely any depiction of love among those with Down syndrome. The photo project by Gauld aims to raise awareness by relying on their own words and through moments of intimacy and love captured by her. “Depictions of romantic love within the Down syndrome community are uncommon, making it just one of the many facets of human life that the world doesn’t consider about people with Down syndrome,” said Laura LaChance, executive director at CDSS in a statement. "Right now, there is an overwhelming lack of awareness and understanding about the complete lives that people with Down syndrome live, and about the range of emotions they experience. This work will change the public narrative,” said LaChance.
“It surprises me that there is a need to demonstrate that people with Down syndrome have and want to experience the same shared relationships and love others take for granted,” said Margot Langis, whose daughter, Ren, features in the campaign. “Love is a human need, and it does not discriminate.”
You can watch them talk about love here: