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Knoxville photographer reaches international competition final

caleb the cowboy
‘Caleb the Cowboy’ by Houston Vandergriff; image submitted

A young man from Knoxville has reached the finals of an international photography competition. Houston Vandergriff’s stunning picture ‘Caleb the Cowboy’ is one of twenty-five shortlisted in the Down’s Syndrome Association’s ‘My Perspective’ competition.

The competition is open to people with Down's syndrome from across the world. This year entries came from as far away as Iran, Canada, USA, Australia, India and Kyrgyzstan as well as the UK, where the Down's Syndrome Association is based.

Houston’s evocative portrait is of a friend. Houston says: “Caleb is my friend. We were in a movie together. He rides horses.”

Houston recently earned the Advanced Photography Certificate from the University of Tennessee professional program.

The competition gives photographers who have the genetic condition a chance to show off their talents to a group of industry professionals and special guest judges. This year the panel includes actors Peter Davison (Doctor Who, All Creatures Great And Small) and Emma Barton (Eastenders), who are both patrons of the DSA, and Dianne Buswell, one of Strictly Come Dancing’s professional dancers. The judging panel will choose the Judge’s Choice winner.

From 6-20 July, members of the public will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite picture, to choose the People’s Choice winner. All the details of the shortlisted photographs and details of how to vote will be available here.

A special award, the Stephen Thomas Award, is given to an international photographer. The prize was established in 2016 in memory of the Stephen, a previous My Perspective winner, who sadly died with his father in a tragic boating accident in Canada in 2015. The winners will be revealed in early August. Sadly, this year’s awards event has been cancelled due to covid-19 pandemic but all the shortlisted photographers, and the winners, will be celebrated through the DSA’s social media channels.

In years gone by, people with Down's syndrome were photographed as exhibits; the viewer was not supposed to see the person, just the difference. The Down's Syndrome Association's ‘My Perspective’ competition, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, aims to turn the camera around and give people with Down's syndrome the chance to show the world from their point of view.

Down's syndrome

Down's syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome. Around one in every 1,000 babies is born with Down's syndrome. There are over 40,000 people with the condition in the UK.

Everyone with Down’s syndrome will have some degree of learning disability. The most important thing to remember is that everyone with Down’s syndrome is an individual, with their own strengths and weaknesses and personality traits that make them who they are.

The Down's Syndrome Association (DSA) is a registered (1061474) national charity that exists to provide information and support for people with Down's syndrome, their families, carers and those with a professional interest. The DSA seeks to improve knowledge and understanding and champion the rights of people with Down's syndrome.

Published July 1, 2020

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