Mela features in the photographic art book called The Super Power Baby Project. Photo: Rachel Callander.Like most new parents, Rachel and Sam Callander were elated about the arrival of their baby daughter, Evie, but their delight turned to a deep sense of shock when they discovered she had a rare chromosomal condition.
But as Evie developed, the couple began to see her as a gift who could change not just their own perceptions about disability, but those of other people.
“I had never been exposed to disability before,” Mrs Callander said. “I didn’t know anyone with a disability, no one in my family had a disability. When Evie came along it was a massive shock.
Malaya features in the Callander’s book celebrating children with disability. Photo: Rachel Callander.
“Over time we learned so much from her and about how she led her life in her own unique way. We didn’t see her as a deficit or ever think that she wasn’t as good as other people or as valuable. We saw the complete opposite. The lessons she taught us were so incredibly profoundwe realised she had so much to show the world.”
The Callanders were devastated when they lost Evieat the age of 2½,but decided to put her legacy and Mrs Callander’s photographic skills to positive use.
They created a photographic art book calledThe Super Power Baby Project, featuring stunning images of children with disabilities alongside words from their parents expressing their child’s special traits.
Romy features in a photographic art book celebrating the joys of parenting disabled children. Photo: Rachel Callander.
“Sam and I really wanted to balance the negative language around disability,” Mrs Callander said. “The images really challenge that perception that disability is something negative. They celebrate ability, they celebrate the child’s character and their personality.”
The New Zealand-based couple have been overwhelmed by the response to the book, which was published last year.
Mrs Callander was invited to Sydney last week to talk about her experience as a keynote speaker at the 2015 possABLE IDEAS Expo, held over two days in Penrith, which is the hub for the state’s new NDIS rollout.
A new photographic art book enabled parents to celebrate their children’s unique qualities. Photo: Rachel Callander.
The 75 children featured in the book all have genetic or chromosomal conditions such as Down syndrome, Angelman syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome.
Participating in the project proved a moving experience for both the Callanders and theirsubjects’ families.
“The families loved having a space to really gush about their child,” Mrs Callander said.
Silvio features in The Super Power Baby Project. Photo: Rachel Callander.
“For some of the families, they’d never had an opportunity to talk about their child in a positive way before.
“Having us come into their homes and ask them about their children – not about their diagnosis or their disability – but about what they enjoy and their fun little characteristics was really uplifting for the families.
“When they saw the photos, the reaction was usually: ‘This is exactly how I see my child’.”
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