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the uplifting beauty in down syndrome WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: Justine Tjallinks

models: Bodil, Isis, Jennifer, Jinte, Isa, and Jayda styling: Dieudonnee Bouwman make up & hair: Danine Zwets

It’s amazing how a mother-to-be today can determine if her unborn child has 47 chromosomes — an indicator of Down syndrome. Thanks to science and cautious parents-to-be, fewer children are being born with the condition. When I learned this, I couldn’t help but wonder; could there be no one left with Down syndrome in our near future? No one wants their child to go through life having to cope with a perceived handicap, but when it happens, no parent can imagine living without their child regardless of circumstance. In my photography, I am always searching for the beauty in imperfections, and I was inspired to create a series that features young girls with Down syndrome to emphasize just how beautiful they are. In my preparation for the series, I researched Down syndrome online and came across a few other photo series featuring people with the condition. However, those series featured people with Down syndrome against a white backdrop, clearly highlighting the characteristics of it. That was not my intention. The motivation behind my work is to communicate an emotion and create a sense of intimacy between

the viewer and the subject. I want to provide my audience with an in-depth look into the souls of my models. I created two series based on the subject; the series “Flowers in the Attic” during the end of 2014 and “Feelings” during the beginning of 2015. The shoots themselves were quite the experience. I could not have imagined how different each of the girls were going to be. Some of the girls were very easy to work with — they were at ease and focused. So focused, in fact, that there was an intense connection between me and them. But, on the other hand, there were girls that were so immersed in their own world that it was difficult to develop a connection with them at all — I had only a few short moments to capture their attention to get the shot I wanted. All in all, the project was extremely emotional for everybody — the girls, the parents and my team included. It was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had the privilege of being part of, and resulted in very special portraits of special little girls. v PAPERCUTMAG.COM