Professional photographer Guidotti inspires students to look past genetic disorders


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Art and science collided at the hands of professional photographer Rick Guidotti, who brought his creations and inspiration to the University of Iowa campus Thursday. Guidotti photographs children all over the world with genetic disorders in an effort to reduce stigma and share their unique beauty.

The Iowa Institute of Human Genetics and the Carver College of Medicine hosted the presentation, which is part of the institute’s seminar series. The Iowa Institute of Human Genetics was first approved by the state Board of Regents in August 2012.

“Our mission is to educate all Iowans about genetics,” said Colleen Campbell, the assistant director of the institute.

Guidotti was invited to campus to share his work and his vision of looking past genetic differences and at individuals.

“He shows us how to look at things differently,” said Richard Smith, the director of the institute. “Maybe deep down inside, we all know a person is a person, but his vision shows us the humanity in all of us.”

Guidotti began as a fashion photographer, shooting Cindy Crawford and contributing to fashion magazines around the world. However, he left that life behind.

“I was told what was considered beautiful and who was considered beautiful,” he said during his presentation.

Guidotti began his newest journey when he saw the beauty in albinism and realized most of the world did not. Soon, he was working with national organizations to challenge the stigma of albinism — and as the years passed he branched out and photographed children with various genetic disorders.

“He used to snap photos of models, representing beauty in the eyes of the world today,” Debra Schwinn, the dean of the medical school, wrote in an email. “Then one day, he discovered an inner beauty in the mosaic of humanity and has spent his days since photographing individuals and families with genetic diseases to exemplify how we manifest our individuality. Variation based on genetic variation defines humanity and beauty in a new way.”

He hopes the children can find the beauty they hold so the world can see it as well.

“Once they are empowered with the tools they need, they become ambassadors for change,” Guidotti said. “They change the way the world sees their difference one community at a time.”

The institute hopes education can help transcend the differences among people.

“In general, people are unsure and uneasy about what they don’t understand,” Campbell said.

She added, though, that acceptance was not the only goal.

“[Education is necessary] not only to promote acceptance but also so you can advocate for yourself,” Campbell said.

And for the students or community members that want to help create change, Guidotti suggests exactly what he did.

“Believe,” he said. “Just follow your instincts. Believe in your passions and use your passion and apply them fearlessly to address issues that are important to you.”

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