By Jodi Collins
My involvement with the Northwest Down Syndrome Association began in 2004 when I received a call from Tacee Webb. Her little boy was about to undergo heart surgery, and she wanted to do a photo shoot before he entered the hospital. She needed to schedule on very short notice, on the day of my sister’s birthday. Normally I wouldn't have been able to accommodate such a request, but I was intrigued by Tacee’s story, and I agreed to meet her.
The shoot went very well, and lasted hours longer than a usual shoot, as Tacee and I made a real connection. I didn't have much experience with people with disabilities, and I was very moved by the whole experience. Meeting Tacee and her family really changed my perceptions of what life was like for a family touched by disability.
When she approached me later asking me to help with a calendar for the Northwest Down Syndrome Association, I was excited for the opportunity to work with her, and learn more. I was glad to find a way to take my photography and use it to give back to the community with volunteer work. This was a great opportunity to help raise Down syndrome awareness, and participate in something larger than myself.
The DS Now Calendar came out in December of 2004, and with the energy generated by Tacee and the NWDSA, a billboard campaign was launched. I was seeing my photographs far larger than life on signboards around the city. It was a pretty big deal to see my work up there like that. It was a big deal for the NWDSA, too, and it felt great to have helped them with their campaign to share beautiful, positive images of people with Down syndrome.
I began working with the NWDSA again in 2007 when Angela Jarvis-Holland approached me about doing another calendar. After the shoots were underway, the project grew to include the All Born (In) traveling photo gallery. Although my business had grown, and time had become a bit more precious since the birth of my twins, I was excited to have another opportunity to work with the NWDSA again.
After nearly two years of planning, it was wonderful to see the banners and calendar together at an Open Studio night at my studio in Northeast Portland on November 15th. It was very rewarding to watch so many diverse people witness the impact of this project.
We are all busy people, and it is easy to feel that you don’t have time for “extra” work, but it is also easy to make time when something is important. I have come to believe strongly in the work and mission of the NWDSA, and it is wonderful to be able to partner with such a great organization.