Photography with Down syndrome (Being Me: Carlos)

Captions by Jordan Waetford. Edited by Alex Walker. Captions were made with the support of NZ On Air. Copyright Able 2021 (GENTLE GUITAR MUSIC) (GENTLE MUSIC CONTINUES) (GENTLE FLAMENCO MUSIC) – His interest in photography started at school. Carlos started to take some photos to appreciate how you can really communicate ideas with those.

The Carnival is… special for us, because we were born in that city, so we managed to get that credential for Carlos, and then we had to let him go on the street without us being close. It was a little scary. – There’s an international photography competition in London for people with Down syndrome. Carlos sent his photograph of… – Alice Springs in Australia. – …Alice Springs in Australia, and they like that. They say, ‘This is the one.’ (UPLIFTING MUSIC) – Skies have been on Carlos’s interest for probably 10 years. In Dunedin, the skies are just… nuts — particularly in winter, the colours and all those things. Then Carlos started to say, ‘Well, this works well, or would go well, with poems.’

And then we started to think, OK, where do we find poems? We have no idea on this. – I drive a book bus for Dunedin Public Libraries. I’m the librarian on the bus. I recommend books to people, issue books. It’s all the usual library functions. Hi, Betty. – Oh, good morning, Kirstie. – ‘I met Carlos through a poetry reading that I’d organised.’ That’s actually really good. I recommend that one. ‘One of my friends knew that he was wanting some poems to go with his photography, ‘so she invited him to the reading. ‘When I met him and looked at his photographs, ‘it was quite an emotional experience, actually.’ I was quite gripped by them, but very moved. And I just got really excited about it straight away and wanted to do it.

And after that, we set up a meeting to talk about the book project. He just had faith that I could gather the poets and get them to write poems. It was incredibly heartening to have that sense of belief behind me. Hi, Carlos. – Hey. – How are you? – Good. – Come in. Is that your portfolio? – Yes, it is, yeah. – Two years? – Two years. – We’ve sent the photos to the poets,… – Yep. – …and each poet has chosen two photos to write to. So— – As far as I can remember it. – Yeah, that’s right. – So, the poets, they all chose different photos, depending on what they were… – Every sky is different. – Yeah. And the other thing that came up was we don’t often think about the sky. ‘The poets and I started to meet regularly and talk about poetry. ‘Same with Carlos — just meeting and talking. ‘He’s very relaxed to spend time with, and he’s got interesting things to say.’ – I like that name too. This photo is the one that really got to me. These photographs. – I cried. Don’t tell them I cried! (LAUGHS) This this one particularly made me cry.

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And that’s when I knew we had to write the poems. – He just makes you laugh. But then, you know, I find I want to make him laugh as well, so we’ve become a bit of a comic duo sometimes. OK, but especially this one. – Fair enough. OK. * (RELAXED MUSIC) (SEAGULLS SQUAWK, PHONE RINGS) – Hi, herma. How are you? – Good, good. I’m so excited for you, and I wish you all the very best. You know, I’m so proud of you, and I’m so excited that other people will get to see your hard work and just how great of a photographer you are. The greatest brother of all time. – Bye. (BLOWS KISSES) Love you. Good luck! (CARLOS SPEAKS SPANISH) (SOFT MUSIC) – Carlos was born in La Paz, Bolivia, 25th April 1991. – The doctor told us that Carlos had some signs, if you want to say, to be born with Down syndrome. – It came with stories like, well, we really don’t know how much development he’s going to achieve.

Probably the mental age of a 10-year-old boy and… – Perhaps he will die at the age of 5. I refused to accept that diagnosis. And I said, ‘Well, I will do ‘whatever I want to do ‘to help him to become ‘an independent person.’ – Yeah. – Why we move to New Zealand? Well, on the one hand, it had to do with finding better opportunities for our kids, both Carlos and Tatiana. – ‘Course, it was better for them, because they went to school. That was a huge difference. – (CARLOS RECITES PRAYER IN SPANISH) – ALL: Amen. – The first days for Carlos was not easy. Not understand anything, but he was determined to learn. – Carlos was reading and writing. Oh wow. It was a big surprise. – And then Carlos was given the opportunity to go to some of the classes in the mainstream, so some kind of integration, which is good. (FRIENDS CHATTER INDISTINCTLY) – So, how’s your sister doing, anyway? – She’s good. – She’s in Auckland, right? – She’s in Auckland. – All of a sudden, they became really close friends. It was great for Carlos, having them when we arrived. (FRIENDS CHATTER) –

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They have, time to time,… lunch or coffee or go to a movie. – It’s, like, These Boots Are Made For Walking or something. – # These boots are made for walking, # and that’s what I should do. # – Fantastic! (ALL LAUGH) (INSPIRING MUSIC) – It’s only natural that we got a little bit rusty, so we’ll start with a little exercise. Sarah, can I get you to go with Carlos? – He was a keen learner — still is, gladly — and I think that was one of the reasons why he was able to achieve things beyond our expectations and many others’ expectations. (SARAH GIGGLES) – If something goes to his mind, he’s going to do whatever (CHUCKLES) he can do to make it come true. – (SPEAKS GERMAN) And you can read a bit. – So, this is a listening comprehension exercise. – (CARLOS SPEAKS GERMAN) (UPBEAT LATIN POP MUSIC) (UPBEAT LATIN POP MUSIC CONTINUES) * (CROWD CHATTERS) (LAUGHTER) – Kia ora koutou. Nau mai, haere mai.

I’ve been thinking about colour and emotion, and so I prepared to write my introduction to Carlos Biggemann. It’s nearly impossible to separate… colour and feeling. Carlos’s photos contain and allow an intense vulnerability. Developing a book together has been a beautiful project, encouraging each other and becoming friends. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Carlos Biggemann. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) (APPLAUSE) (POIGNANT MUSIC) – Right, now we’re going to have some poetry readings from the amazing group of poets who’ve been working on this project. – My name’s Rushi Vyas, and my poem is called The Constable of Doubt. (APPLAUSE) – Amber ball to roll beneath my feet. – Carlos thought as that there is no limitations. – Yeah, yeah, we are proud. – So proud of him, of course. – And we like the fact that it has been some kind of inspiration for others as well. – This is my poem Dear. ‘He’s a leader in that way,…’ I’ve been buried in the black. ‘…allowing people to be who they are and going with them. ‘It’s leadership by example.’ Heart open to the sky. – Congratulations. – Thank you. (WORDS ECHO) (STOIC MUSIC) Captioned by Jordan Waetford. Edited by Alex Walker. Captions were made with the support of NZ On Air. Copyright Able 2021

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