Down's Upside: Capturing the positives

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The Independent Culture

Eva Snoijink realised that her preconceived ideas about Down’s syndrome were baseless after meeting Pien, a six-year-old girl with the condition, in 2006. A children’s photographer, who normally works under the name Mrs Fluitekruidje, this encounter inspired Snoijink to try and capture many positive aspects of the disability through her work.

“How little a child with Down’s syndrome differs from other children!” Snoijink remarks in the book’s preface. “How often I heard [from parents] ‘If I had known this beforehand, I wouldn’t have worried so much.’ This is what I want to show you: Down’s Upside.”

Snoijink set about trying to address her own, and others’, fears about Down’s through photography. She photographed and interviewed the parents of more than 100 children, the fruits of which have recently been turned into a book. In it parents are quoted alongside her stunning images of their children describing the things they love about them.

Click here or on the image to see pictures from the book

“The diagnosis of Down’s syndrome hits you like a bomb. However, you have already had the worst,” the parents of Gija, five-years-old, said. Jim’s parents express their relief he only had Down’s syndrome after prenatal fears that he would not survive: “On seeing his beautiful head we immediately saw he had Down’s syndrome. We felt immense relief, as we knew now that he was going to live.”

In England and Wales in 2009 just under 90 per cent of prenatally diagnosed Down’s pregnancies resulted in a termination. According to the National Down Syndrome Cytogenic Register published in December 2010, there were 1887 diagnoses of Down’s made in 2009, 62 per cent of which were made prenatally. For 2009, the register recorded a live birth rate of 1.1 baby per 1000 Down's pregnancies.

The book tells us that there are many happy reasons to welcome a child with Down’s into the world, but does not seek to judge those who choose, for whatever reason, not to. “I am not against terminating a pregnancy when the baby has got Down’s syndrome,” Snoijink said. “I am not against first-trimester combined screening, amniocentesis and Chorionic villus sampling. I am in favour of a positive way of looking at things. This book shows the children as they really are, in all their beauty.”

Down's Upside is a project of Eva Snoijink and Unieboek, Het Spectrum publishers, the Netherlands,