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3/5/15blog post

refocusing my lens on true beauty

Amazing, gorgeous, beautiful…who doesn’t want those words spoken about them?

On Wednesday, I had an unbelievable opportunity to spend the day with Rick Guidotti, a former top fashion photographer who has spent the past fifteen years working internationally with advocacy organizations/NGOs, medical schools, universities and other educational institutions to effect a sea-change in societal attitudes towards individuals living with genetic difference. His story and the stories of those he has photographed is incredible.

Rick was visiting Dayton Children’s as part of the ReelAbilities Film Festival as he premiered a film about his story, On Beauty. Since he was in Dayton, we were able to bring him to Dayton Children’s to photograph some of our patients.

The photo shoot was nothing short of amazing.

As a children’s hospital, we’re focused on solving problems, addressing symptoms and ultimately healing to ensure the best possible outcome for our patients. We tend to define and categorize difference in terms of conditions and diseases in order to obtain a diagnosis and define steps to move forward.

Unfortunately, the byproduct of this science can be the disconnection from our humanness.

Rick’s “studio” at the hospital was simple. An office atrium with white walls, a hardwood floor and some natural sunlight. We found a fan to give our models that “top model, hair blowing in the wind” look and light music played in the background. There were no special lights, camera flashes, make-up or designer clothing. It was Rick, his camera and kids.

Rick Guidotti connecting with Max Boston

One by one our patients came in with a parent or two – sometimes a sibling. Rick immediately connected with them. He asked them about their hopes and dreams. For children that were nonverbal he held their hands or let them touch his face. And then the camera came out…sometimes out of the blue. The child that came in with head down lit up the camera screen and in an instant the child’s beauty was drawn out and into the Rick’s lens.

“You are A-Mazing,” Rick would say. Click, click, click. “Mom, look at this kid, he is incredible.”

Rick is able to connect to the beauty that a parent sees in their child but his artistic gift allows him to capture this beauty for the entire world to see. He captures the life beyond a diagnosis or medical condition – the beautiful life of a child.

Paige Brammer being photographed by Rick Guidotti

Unfortunately, there may always be fear, misunderstanding and misinformation in the world but it’s so important that we teach children that they are beautiful – regardless of what the bullies may say – and give them the self-esteem and self-love so they have the strength to be self-advocates. Rick tells his models they are beautiful – they only needed to hear it and their light shined.

During the photo shoot, and the time I spent with Rick, I was challenged to take a step back…or more appropriately, a step forward, around fears of the unknown and discomfort toward the common humanity that unites us all. This experience dared me to refocus my lens and recognize sometimes the perfection is in the imperfection. A connection in those moments of true humanity is where true beauty lives.