Former fashion photographer Rick Guidotti has been taking pictures of people with genetic differences for over a decade. His organization, Positive Exposure, celebrates “the spirit of difference” and “the joy that comes with self-acceptance.” He’s committed to changing how people with genetic conditions all over the world see themselves, and, in turn, how they’re perceived within their communities.

Guidotti is adamant that his work isn’t about illuminating inner beauty. “This is beauty,” he insists. “This is the real deal. These kids are gorgeous, and you see the beauty there exists. We just haven’t been allowed to see it.”

Photographing people with albinism has been central to Guidotti’s efforts with Positive Exposure. In recent years, he’s photographed some of these young women and men in villages in Mali and Tanzania, where the social stigma can lead to ostracization and sometimes life-threatening consequences, and in South Africa at a school for the blind.

When we sat down at a conference in Minneapolis, I asked him to tell me the stories behind some of his photographs, which we’ve included in our narrated slideshow at the top of this post. You can also download the unedited interview (mp3, 29:21) to hear even more of these stories.

Most of us have probably harbored negative feelings about our physical appearance at some point in our lives. When these feelings lodge and fester, they deplete our spirits. I see Guidotti’s images as a visual reminder to be kinder to ourselves and more generous and joyous in how we construe beauty in all its manifestations.

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This reminds me of a fragment of a post I once made elsewhere:

That being said, the thing I most wanted to write of tonight was what I had in mind while walking my walk, about the post I made a few days back expressing my admiration for the face of Lara, as made manifest for us by way of Julie Christie, playing that character in the film version of "Doctor Zhivago". I began my walk mulling over how seemingly unfair it is that so few are lucky enough to be born with a face having the beautiful symmetries of a Julie Christie or an Omar Sharif, but later found myself thinking instead about how faces can be so expressive, and how by way of expression any face can at times seem as beautiful as either of that pair, without possessing those obviously attractive inborn symmetries.

At times my mind seems wide open, like the aperture of some camera open full stop, thereby admitting the most possible light, allowing me for a time to give weight to what truly deserves it, rightful consideration to what does not, and the ability to see good in what I otherwise might simply miss. Facial expressions have the power to play with that aperture. They hint at what's inside. That hint alone can significantly open my mind, to such a degree that I might feel I truly see the inner light of a person, at least for a time, making them shine quite bright. Next to an otherwise average face expressing unguarded joy, the face of some perfectly symmetrical model with a lack of expression will seem quite plain.

If I've viewed some photo of an author's face prior to having read much of what that person has written, and I later decide to read more by that same author, I'll generally look around a bit for a handful of other pictures taken of that same face. In particular I'll look for the one that seems guaranteed to open my mental aperture most, to admit the most light, knowing that if I keep it in mind while reading, I'm most likely to read them in a just and therefore fair light.

The photos picked to populate some pages written about others, in particular pages written about significant writers, scientists, poets, etc, sometimes bother me a great deal, in that they seem choices guaranteed to keep the mental apertures of a good number of readers narrow. For example take a look at the photo (mug shot) that now appears on the wikipedia page for Simone Weil, an admired writer I've mentioned briefly in a few previous posts. If you read that page after viewing that particular picture, some words applied to her will likely lodge in your brain with associated negative connotations, perhaps words like "the red virgin", "the martian", "activist", "intellectual", "mystic", after which you may not be able to read what she's written fairly, giving her her fair due.

Here's another photo of Simone you'll find if you take the time to look ( ). Read those same words with that face and expression in mind and I think you just might find yourself moved by her personal story. Words made virtually invisible or at the very least out of focus as a consequence of the narrow aperture afforded by way of that other photo, may with this image in mind stand out clearly, perhaps casting those previously lodged words in a completely different light, potentially replacing an otherwise negative impression with one of compassion, for a person who struggled hard to be kind and caring, to find purpose in life, while all the while battling with personal idiosyncrasies that made her days very very difficult. When I read her words through the mental aperture afforded me by way of this photo, she seems to me as beautiful as Lara, in fact more so given she was a real flesh and blood person.

This is wonderful, and I hope you don't mind if I put a link to it on my own blog -- many of my readers are parents of children with disabilities (as I am!) and would so love to see the attention that you've paid here.

Thank you!

Absolutely incredible, thank you for helping everyone's eyes to see the beauty that surrounds us.

This video clip is beautiful...I am moved and inspired by the music the children sang. Thanks for sharing this with the world.