October was Down Syndrome Awareness month, and this year Long Island, New York photographer Rivka Singer celebrated it by creating a series of photos featuring children with Down syndrome. The inspirational series, called the Project Looking Eyes, seeks to show the joy and individuality of these children.
While Rivka did share her photos on her Facebook and Instagram pages, when she put the images together in a video, it took on a life of its own, building up more than 20,000 views and 400 shares on Facebook. When you look at the video, it’s not hard to see why her images touched so many people’s hearts. Take a look for yourself, then read on to learn more about Rivka’s Project Looking Eyes in the interview below:
Animoto: What inspired Project Looking Eyes?
Rivka: A little girl named Grace. I first met Grace when I photographed her preschool’s picture day this spring. It was not only my first time photographing a child with Down syndrome, but my first time meeting a child with Down syndrome. Grace left quite an impression on my thoughts — she’s sweet, gentle, and engaging. Her teacher interacted with her during the shoot by saying to her, “Grace, looking eyes.” Those words took root in my mind and the idea of my project “Looking Eyes” started to develop.
How did you find the children featured in your video?
I reached out to Grace’s mom, who is very active in the Down syndrome community. I was flooded with interested families, all of whom were so excited for the opportunity to have their children photographed by me… it was very humbling.
What did you hope to achieve through project? Do you think you achieved your goals?
I’m trying to show through imagery that ALL children have the same needs. Children need to be loved for who they are and, more importantly, they need to be accepted for who they are. All children, whether disabled or not, want to laugh, be tickled, be silly, and show-off the best parts of who they are. When a child is really SEEN, and feels understood, his or her eyes light up with joy and their facial expression relaxes into soft smiles.
What reactions have you gotten from people who’ve seen the video?
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive! I received so many comments, shares, emails, texts — all from grateful families that embrace my message that “All children are beautiful.” So many families have since shared images they took of their children with Down syndrome in an effort to show off the beauty they see in their child.
Why did you want to share your work as a video (as opposed to a series of images)?
I had been posting images here and there on Instagram and Facebook for a while, but I felt it wasn’t reaching enough people. Because of the importance of the message and my desire to shine a spotlight on children with Down syndrome, I wanted to find a way to get the message out there. Meeting [Animoto team member] Sally Sargood at The Baby Summit in Atlanta helped spark the idea that compiling an inspiring video comprised of my images along with moving text might be the way to go. I had no idea just how amazing the reach would be and I’m still floored by it.