Photography book aims to challenge how we see people with Down's syndrome

A new photography project is aiming to challenge how society sees people with Down's syndrome.

The Radical Beauty Project is a collection of beautiful, high-concept photographs featuring only models with Down's syndrome.

Creative director Daniel Vais said the idea for the book came to him - "like a vision" - as he was walking down the street.

Having worked with people with Down's syndrome for a long time, he realised there was a disconnect between the stereotypical view of people with Down's syndrome and the individuals he knew.

As well as giving a creative platform to people with Down's syndrome, Vais wanted to challenge the idea of what represents beauty in contemporary culture.

Credit: Samuli Karala for Radical Beauty Project

"In our society in the last 100 years, we have become conditioned, through what we saw in magazine for example, to think beauty means tall, thin and blonde. But people are becoming bored of it."

The project also aims to dispel the idea of people with Down's syndrome as cute, angelic and fond of hugging.

Vais says: "People think that people with Down's syndrome have no opinions, no individualism. But it is absolutely the opposite.

"They are wise, very inspirational, very creative, they have very radical, very clear ideas.

Credit: Elizaveta Porodina for Radical Beauty Project

"And, like everyone, they are all very different."

People with Down's syndrome are often held back by society and the ingrained misconceptions that exist.

But, as Vais says, "in reality they can do anything".

Vais said people with Down's syndrome are excluded from art and culture when he says, there is no reason they could not be "on the cover of Vogue".

In the words of Sarah Gordy, the first person with Down's syndrome to receive an MBE who Vais works closely with, "we might learn things a bit slower, but when we get it, we master it."

Model: Sarah Gordy MBE Credit: Zuzia Zawada for Radical Beauty Project

The models featured in the Radical Beauty Project were originally people Vais knew through his work in theatre and dance, but the project expanded into a global collaboration, featuring people from Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

The project takes on further significance when viewed next to statistics that show the number of babies born with Down's syndrome is falling rapidly. In Denmark and Iceland, which have almost universal screening, nearly 100% of foetuses with Down’s syndrome are terminated.

Credit: Erwin Olaf for Radical Beauty Project

Vais says that for people with Down's syndrome, the response to this "why do they want to get rid of us?"

"They don't have a strong voice, it's not heard," he says.

But the Radical Beauty Project aims to give people with Down's syndrome just that.

Vais says: "Given opportunity and a platform, they can get as far as they can in life like anyone - and we're proving it."