By John Guido
It’s time to return to the photo contest that was launched by the “Mon ami Gil” series last spring.
In December, we met Tiana Kirkegaard, who was inspired by Gil to take her turn in front of the camera. Tiana “learned that I can be myself and that feeling of comfort with my look.” Her photos were amazing.
Now we’re delighted to introduce you to Ross Moncrieff, the second of the two individuals with intellectual disabilities selected for a session with a professional photographer.
Ross did something different with his photoshoot. His niece, Sara, works with Lululemon. Lululemon invited him to their Queen Street, Toronto store where he chose some yoga clothes. A few weeks later, he did his shoot with a photographer in the store.
During the shoot, Ross did yoga poses and lifted weights. The photos capture him in activities that are socially valued, presenting himself as he wants to be seen. He shines in this light, revealing his unique personality and growing sense of self.
Sara says, “I am blown away by Ross’ adaptability and grace during the whole experience. The photographer, who works with many different types of models said that he was the best model he has ever worked with – so much confidence and natural ability.”
Why did you want to participate in the photo contest?
“I felt good in myself… my life is really good. And make new friends. I have a good life.”
How did you feel about your photo shoot?
“I had a nice time. It was a (Lululemon) store where my niece works. It was my first time. He (the photographer) was a nice guy and helped me out. He likes it when he takes pictures of me. We had fun together, the process. I feel relaxed, made me feel better.”
What did you find difficult about being photographed?
“Sometimes, it’s nice. The pose(s) we did were good, working together. I lifted weights too, a little bit hard – I’m okay for that. Holding the (yoga) poses, it was new for me. I feel relaxing, take my anger away. I feel better.”
Did you learn something about yourself?
“About your emotions and how you’re feeling. About you relaxing and experience yourself in space. Just be yourself; relaxing, happy life. (When I’m) a little bit uptight, I feel upset, yoga makes me feel good, takes my trouble away. I like the lights, you see my face – my face is nice. I learned a lot: focus, no nonsense about who I am, the process, the directions. I meet people and enjoy (being with them).”
Did you learn something about others?
“It makes me feel better (to) see family pictures of me, my mom and dad, my sisters, my niece. I feel happy in my family. Nice memories. My sisters like (the photo shoot). They say how really nice and handsome I am, nice clothing.”
Would you do it again?
“I’m loving it. It’s good. I’ll do it again next year.”
A personal note from John
A year ago, I interviewed Ross for a story for the L’Arche Canada Foundation. He asked his sister, Karen, to speak because it was too hard for him to talk about his journey from loneliness in his family home to friendship and belonging in L’Arche.
Full disclosure, Ross is a friend of mine – although I had nothing to do with selecting him for this photo shoot. Like his niece, Sara, I’m ‘blown away’ listening to Ross as I interviewed him for this piece. I hear in his voice the same self-confidence that I see in the photos. Ross speaks about feeling “good in myself” and being more relaxed, focused, and connected to others. I believe him.
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