In 1997, a girl young with pale skin and white hair unknowingly caught the attention of fashion photographer Rick Guidotti. At the time, Guidotti worked for high profile clients such as Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and GQ, capturing images of what society deemed the most beautiful people in the world. But this young girl, she was stunning. She had albinism.
After seeing her for that brief moment, Guidotti researched her genetic condition. The images he found of people with this external abnormality were dehumanizing; they were seen for their condition and little more. One year later, Guidotti founded Positive Exposure, a nonprofit dedicated to changing perceptions of people born with genetic abnormalities through photography. We caught up with Guidotti as he continues to promote Positive Exposure exhibit around the world.
Shutterstock: How did you get your start in fashion photography?
Guidotti: I was an architecture major and terrible at it! My friends would come in with these beautiful models, while mine looked like cardboard. But I loved the aesthetic of space. I started photographing buildings and fell in love with photography, eventually applying to the School of Visual Arts in New York. It was the ’80s and all my friends were models and actors. My friend Ralph Rucci, who went to high school with me, asked me to take photos for him and it grew from there.
Now you’re behind this great cause because you wanted to see a change. Has your creative process changed in comparison to your work in fashion?
My creative process hasn’t changed. I never photographed the condition; it’s always about seeing and interpreting beauty and showing it to the public. In fashion photography, there are so many rules you have to slot into. Photography has the ability to allow the viewer to put away biases and gives them the freedom to see beauty and discover it on their own.
Are you familiar with Chantelle Winnie? Have you noticed any other changes in the industry’s perception of beauty? A few runway shows featured people with disabilities on the catwalk this Spring.
I love Chantelle! There is a change in the industry and it’s slow going. People are willing and ready to see beyond the cover, but we’re still afraid to use our voice. We’re taking it back slowly. I want everyone to know they have permission to see beauty in their reflections. Our motto is “Change how you see, see how you change.”
How do your programs with Positive Exposure reflect that motto?
Our multimedia exhibit is traveling through 18 countries in 14 weeks, including Brazil, Australia, and Turkey. We’re working all over the globe and have other programs, too: Our PEARLS Project shares real life stories of people living with genetic, physical, and behavioral differences. The FRAME (Faces Redefining the Art of Medical Education) project takes aim at empowering communities and working with those in the medical field regarding the images of people you see with genetic abnormalities in their offices or books. We don’t need dehumanizing photos with black bars covering the individual’s eyes.
The traveling Positive Exposure exhibit is currently on view at the Lower Eastside Girls Club in NYC, Tue-Fri from 12-6pm, through the end of April. For more on Positive Exposure, including information on how you can get involved, visit the official website and follow Guidotti on Twitter.