by CARLY FINDLAY
Rick Guidotti’s motto is “Change how you see. See how you change”. He does this through photographing people with genetic differences, just like he would photograph supermodels. The photos enable viewers to see the person, not the condition.
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When Rick Guidotti was a fashion photographer, he was always told what was beautiful. He photographed the supermodels known by their first name only – Cindy, Claudia, Naomi, Christy. But he didn’t only see beauty on the covers of magazines.
In the late 1990s, Rick saw a beautiful girl outside of his New York apartment. She had long white hair and pale skin, radiating beauty. She had albinism. Rick did some research on albinism, looking at medical text books. He was heartbroken by what he saw – the people featured in the texts were just medical specimens – their eyes and genitals blocked out. They looked sad, sick, and Rick described them as “defined by their disease”.
They were not photographed to show their personality, they were photographed to show their condition. (When I was a child, I spent many hours in a cold hospital room being photographed for similar text books due to my skin condition which I’ve written about for Mamamia here.) He wanted to change the way people with albinism were represented in medical text books, as well as in media and society, and so he contacted the albinism association, asking if he could work in partnership with them, taking photographs for text books – “showing the world the beauty of albinism”.
At first the association was reluctant, concerned about sensationalism and exploitation. But then he put forward the idea of a genetic support group with the association, and suggested they could oversee his work.
His first photographic project was with a young girl called Christine – he said she was just beautiful, but afraid to hold her head up high. She had no self esteem as a result of being teased about her appearance every day. His studio was set up from the day before, when he photographed Cindy Crawford. He treated her just as he treated Cindy, holding up a mirror to her and convinced she was beautiful. He said that at the end of the session, she held her head up high, working the room, and had the confidence to change the way society viewed her. In 1998, Rick’s work was featured in Life Magazine, showcasing a range of people with albinism.
Since then, Rick has been helping many people feel more confident through sharing their lives through images, and for the world to “see the beauty in all differences”. He set up Positive Exposure with the view to change the way society views people with a wide range of genetic differences and medical conditions.
He attends medical conferences where he photographs people with many conditions. Although an artist, he demonstrates great fluency in medical terminology, and he told me that he picks this up through spending time at conferences and working in hospitals. He also holds exhibitions of his work – one is coming up in Grand Central Station, New York.