Artistically Abled

Spotlight / Shoot Spotlight
Morsa Images
Alwyn Gosford
Mar 3, 2020
The launch of the Disability Collection struck a chord with Barcelona based photographer Abel Mitja Varela and we started working on a shoot that explored this topic. During our pre‑production discussions, we noticed that most images really focus on their disability, rather than being about the person first and the disability second. We challenged ourselves to produce images that show what a disabled person can do rather than what they can’t.
While Abel is great at directing his subjects for this shoot we thought that it made more sense to take more of a documentary‑style approach.
Abel contacted the Catalan Foundation for Down Syndrome seeking participation from their members and presented our ideas. One of the first to reply was Erik’s mother to say he was very interested in taking part. He loves to paint and attends painting classes three times a week and also has a dedicated space to paint at home. Because it was a better‑sized location for us to do the shoot we borrowed another painter’s much larger studio.

“It was very relaxed. Erik came with a folder with some of his works and he explained to us what he had painted and the reasons for painting such a picture. This helped us connect and get more involved with what he does and so I suggested that he did what he usually does when he paints and that I would just shoot around the action, only giving him a few instructions for some shots. He had brought with him his brushes and paint, some paper and got started quickly, finishing three paintings, one of which became the family’s Christmas card.” – Abel Varela.

Our goal was to show a painter with down syndrome, rather than a person with down syndrome that paints, and to that end, we’re really happy with the results.

“Erik was very proud and pleased with the result and enjoyed being the person in the spotlight and to be able to see himself doing something he really enjoys.”

The image that Erik’s most fond of is the one that headlines this article, where he is standing, feeling confident that he is good at what he does. See more of Erik’s work on Instagram. Abel’s favorites can be found in the gallery of images from this shoot.
Family Garden Party