Portrait Series of Kids With Down Syndrome Spreads Contagious Joy
For the last four years, Rhode Island-based photographer Laura Kilgus has been passionate about helping the Down syndrome community in any way she can.
After reaching out to Claudia Lowe, executive director at the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island (DSSRI), Kilgus, 29, has offered complimentary photo services to a number of families involved in the organization through her business 9ten Photography.
On Thursday, she’ll host a gallery show of the portraits to kick off Down Syndrome Awareness Month. The event, which will be held at the Warwick Public Library tonight, will highlight some of these incredible portrait sessions. Kilgus told The Mighty in an e-mail that she’s both excited and nervous, but she can’t wait to see the families’ reactions to the show.
“I want this to be a special night for them to see themselves, and their personalities showcased in this way,” she told The Mighty. “Experiencing the contagious joy of these children and how loved they are by their parents and siblings has been the best part of this whole experience.”
Kilgus’ 5-year-old nephew Tommy (pictured below), has Down syndrome; he’s the main reason she decided to get more involved in raising awareness for the genetic condition.
Of course, as the years have gone by, a few other kids have earned a special place in her heart. After shooting portraits of sisters Celia and Ava, Kilgus became quite attached to the little girls, particularly Celia (pictured below), who was also diagnosed with cancer this past spring.
“The last few months have been very difficult for the family, who have spent a ton of time in and out of Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence,” Kilgus told The Mighty. “I’m so happy to be able to feature Celia in this way at the photo gallery as she has really been a beautiful little person in my life. She’s an amazing little girl. It has been inspiring to meet and spend time with such an incredible, hope-filled family.”
Lowe, who has a daughter with Down syndrome, chatted about the power of Kilgus’ portrait sessions with local website Warwick Online.
“Her photos really capture these kids,” Lowe told the outlet. “They say a picture says 1,000 words, and with these pictures you get a sense of these who these kids really are. The unconditional love that is unique to these families and that’s something these photos capture.”