The winners of the Down’s Syndrome Association’s (DSA) international photographic competition have been announced, and they hail from Ireland, Canada and the USA.

Actor Peter Davison, a patron of the charity, made the announcement this morning on social media. Now in its tenth year, the ‘My Perspective’ competition gives photographers who have the genetic condition the chance to share their view of the world.

The Peoples’ Choice Award was voted for by the general public online. They chose Conor O’Dowd’s portrait entitled ‘My friend Jason the model’ as their favourite.

Conor, who is from Drogheda in County Louth, Ireland, said:

I am surprised to win. It’s great. It makes my parents proud. I can’t wait to tell my best friend Jason the great news. I love the My Perspective competition. I was nominated before and it’s great to win. During lockdown I was out and about taking pictures. I would like to celebrate with a few drinks with my friends, and I am looking forward to getting my new camera as a prize as well. Thank you all for voting!

Conor’s striking black and white portrait is full of character. He said:

Jason is my best friend. I met him when we were little. Jason would like to be a fashion model and I would like to be a photographer. For this picture I asked Jason to be my model and he signed the permission form. We had great together fun taking the photo. I love taking photos.

Natalie Stevanus from Bloomingdale in Canada won the Judges’ Choice Award for her moving image entitled ‘Companionship.’

Although Natalie has reached the finals of the competition three times already, this is the first time she has scooped the top prize. She said:

I am very excited and happy to be the winner. I was hopeful that I would be a winner of one of the awards, but surprised when I checked my emails and read the announcement. I like seeing the other photographs that have made the finalists list. I am interested to see what countries the other photographers are from and I like to travel. Taking photographs during the pandemic has helped me get outside. When everything was closed because of COVID I could still go for walks on our farm, nearby countryside and in parks close to where I live.

Natalie’s photograph captures a peaceful, atmospheric early morning scene. She told us:

I love dogs!! On an early morning walk I saw the man and his dog walking. I liked how they looked crossing the bridge. With the sun and fog around them it made me wonder are they best friends, and where are they going? What story can this picture tell us?

This year the judges panel included actors Peter Davison (Doctor Who, All Creatures Great and Small) and Emma Barton (Eastenders), who are both patrons of the DSA, along with Dianne Buswell, one of Strictly Come Dancing’s professional dancers. 

Each year, a special award is presented to a photographer who doesn't live in the UK. It’s called ‘The Stephen Thomas Award’ and was established in memory of Stephen, a previous ‘My Perspective’ winner who sadly died with his father in a tragic boating accident in 2015. This year, Houston Vandergriff from Knoxville, Tennessee, was been named the winner. Entitled ‘Travelling Thru’.

Houston said:

I was at the train station early in the morning. We were going from Aix-en-Provence to Monaco. The sun was coming up. The reflection made it look like two sunrises.

A physical awards ceremony was not possible this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so results were announced and celebrated via the DSA’s social media channels. 

The current Covid-19 situation is challenging for everyone, but even more so for people who have Down’s syndrome. The usual rhythm of life has been disrupted without warning, leaving feelings of isolation, anxiety and frustration. Many have additional health conditions affecting respiratory and cardiac health. It can be hard to understand social-distancing and many have difficulty communicating how they are feeling if they become unwell, mentally and physically. It is hoped that this year’s ‘My Perspective’ competition has given entrants something to focus on during lockdown.

In years gone by, people with Down's syndrome were photographed as exhibits; the viewer was not supposed to see the person, just the difference. The DSA's ‘My Perspective’ competition, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, aims to turn the camera around and give people with Down's syndrome the chance to show the world from their point of view.

You can view all of the shortlisted photographs on the Down's Syndrome Association's website

My Perspective 2020