Saturday, October 23, 2010

Freundschaft (Friendship)

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October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

It’s also my birthday this Monday.

So it felt like a sort of serendipitous early birthday present when Conny Wenk’s new book, “Freundschaft” arrived on my doorstep yesterday.



For those who know little about Down’s Syndrome, the fear of the “other” can be pervading. Ideas of strange looking people dribbling into their chests, while sporting dodgy pudding-basin haircuts, help to contribute to the 92% termination rate of pregnancies carrying children with DS.

But where do these outdated images come from? Mostly they reflect people who were abandoned (or taken away) at birth and raised in institutions where care was never given at a level equivalent to a family upbringing.

30, 40, 50 years on from these times, the world is a very different place. Advances in medicine and ideas of what constitutes care have drastically changed the lives and expectations of children born with DS.

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows that I never hesitate to point out, 98% of bringing up a child with DS is just bringing up a child.

But words on a page are limited, and often it really is the case a picture can speak a thousand more.

Enter Conny Wenk – mother of a beautiful daughter with DS, and photographer extraordinaire.

Conny’s photos are spellbinding. In them we see children, young adults and families having fun and engaging in life. Warmth and love shine through every image.

Last year, I reviewed Conny’s book, Außergewöhnlich: Väterglück (click here for my review), which was full of the most amazing images of fathers with children who have DS, and I was blown away by the power of them to destroy the dark and fearful ideas of what DS might mean.

This year, Conny has done it again. Only this time, her book “Freundschaft” (Friendship) is all about young adults with DS and the bond between friends.

Like her previous book, this one too is written in German. And like her previous book, it matters not one jot if you can’t speak the language – the photographs tell the most amazing and heart-warming stories.





Real young adults having real fun with real friends.

As parents, when we discover our tiny, vulnerable newborn has DS, we fear for his or her future on many levels – one of which is, will they ever have normal friendships?

I and other parents can say, of course. But the photos in this book show beyond all doubt, you don’t just have to take our word for it.

In an ideal world every new parent of a child with DS, indeed every person faced with the decision of what to do next upon discovering the child being carried in the womb has DS, should be given copies of Conny’s books.

And very quickly those fears of the “other” would disappear like the darkness chased away by the early morning sunrise.

The book is available on Amazon for less than 20 Euros - http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/3862560066/ (to check the Amazon entry in your own country, just enterConny Wenk Freundschaft in Amazon's search box), and I can't recommend it highly enough.



All images in this post are the copyright of Conny Wenk.
For other publications by Conny, visit http://www.alittleextra.de/
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21 comments:

Rachel Fox said...

So bright and colourful. Lovely.
x

Aoife.Troxel said...

These are really cool and eye-opening. I am glad she is doing this.

allencapoferri said...

Connie's photographs are very animated & warm. Happy Birthday!

Pat said...

Lovely photos as are yours of Meg. And my son has sent me some lovely ones of Sophie his step-grandaughter who has DS.
I knew it was your birthday on Monday.
Yesterday was my sister's and my niece's birthday and the latter got married and made such a lovely bride.

hope said...

What a wonderful first place to visit today...thanks for sharing this!

Best hug I ever received was from a little boy on the beach who had DS. He'd hugged his Mom for something, then when he saw my Mom and I about to walk by, he ran up and hugged both of us too!

Made a wonderful impression...I was 7 at the time and I still remember him.

angryparsnip said...

The pictures you posted from her book were as @allencapoferri said animated. The clearity and colors just pop and grab you.

Thanks for the book review !

cheers, parsnip

my word verification was "press" how appropriate

Jacqui said...

Such beautiful images.

Eryl said...

Lovely photographs of beautiful youth.

Happy birthday for Monday.

Litzi said...

Hi Kim,
Happy Birthday

Kim Ayres said...

Rachel - she's a great photographer :)

Aoife - so am I :)

Allen - thank you :)

Pat - Yesterday (23rd) was my brother's birthday and today it's my nephew's :)

Hope - you must have been needing the hug - then again, who doesn't?

Parsnip - hah - a very appropriate WV :)

Jacqui - they are aren't they :)

Eryl - thank you :)

Litzi - thank you :)

Falak said...

Really wonderful pictures. They express a lot more than words can.

Carole said...

Great post. Great pictures.

debra said...

You are right---it doesn't matter that the book is written in German. The images speak for themselves---actually, they sing! And happy birthday, too :-)

Fay's Too said...

Thank you for bringing us that. Through my work I have had the opportunity to work with adults with DS at various times, and at other times I've been blessed to work with small children with DS. I don't know how to say this so that it doesn't sound naive or condescending, but I have so much to learn from people with DS. Love, love, love.

Eryl said...

It's Monday now, so I'll just say:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Pat said...

Up you get sleepy head! You're having a global Happy Birthday.xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

Roses said...

Savannah sent me on over to say 'Happy Birthday'.

Happy Birthday!

So, while I was here I read your post and was incredibly moved. In my place of work, I have gotten to know several kids with all kinds of disabilities. My fear of the 'other' dissolved with their laughter, sparkling eyes and mischief.

Mary Witzl said...

Those are beautiful photos -- the light in them makes me long for spring. I can almost hear the children laughing, just looking at them.

Happy Birthday!

Kim Ayres said...

Falak - they are wonderful, aren't they!

Carole - I agree :)

Debra - thank you :)

Fay - it's all about realising the fear of the "other" is unjustified :)

Eryl - thank you :)

Pat - so I've just discovered - Once I've finished responding here, I'll be going round to take a proper look :)

Roses - welcome, and thank you :)

Mary - thank you :)

Eric said...

You know all those stock photos of happy people they put on manuals for your printer, bluejeans ads, shoe ads at the bus stop of friendly cavorting youngsters? My God but wouldn't it be great if they had the balls to put one of these out there. Perhaps a professional thought Bearded One?
Unfortunately on a personal not, if I shot 50 of my son I'll be lucky if I can get 2 with him showing his healing smile-when taking care of him rarely a moment to photograph.

Kim Ayres said...

Eric - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment :)

It would be wonderful if advertisers considered diversity. Unfortunately they feel that only "perfection" sells, and they have a very, very narrow definition of "perfection"

Meanwhile, keep taking the photos of your son - the wonders of digital photography is we can take 100 photos and delete 99 of them if 1 works :)