How One Photographer Is Shedding A Light On Albinism Through New Photo Series

One student at FIT in New York City set out to capture the beauty in albinism for her final thesis and does just that for this series.

Life & Travel

The photographers of 2015 are ensuring people of all colors, ages, and disorders are showcased as American society slowly morphs into a place where our “imperfections” are highlighted and praised.

Like Michelle Marshall, the photographer who captured Black redheads around the world with the MC1R gene, Angelina d’Auguste wanted her final thesis at the Fashion Institute of Technology to include people who were diagnosed with albinism. Drawing inspiration from Shaun Ross, the first American male model with albinism, d’Auguste directed her attention to the condition for her senior thesis project in order to “captivate people by showing the unseen.”  

Model Shaun Ross -the inspiration behind D'Auguste's photo series

And she did just that, producing a stunning photo series with pastel colors as the backdrop to capture her subjects’ “distinct, beautiful features,” all of whom have oculocutaneous albinism.

Oculocutaneous albinism (OCA) is a group of rare inherited disorders indicted by a reduction or complete lack of melanin pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. There are seven types of oculocutaneous albinism as defined by the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation.

From infants to older men and women, and even four subjects coming from one family, Angelina d’Auguste shot the array of photographs with the intent to highlight the pale hues in hair, the light eye colors that often result in “red eye” in pictures, and the white skin tones due to lack of melanin in all of her work. She also allowed the participants the opportunity to speak about their journey to self-acceptance with the congenital disorder.  

D’Auguste said of the project:

“All of the people I met definitely embraced having albinism. One says he forgets that he [has the condition]. He considers himself just a regular guy who just happens to be a little more fair-skinned.”

One of her subjects also revealed:

“Having albinism...broke me out of my shell, because I am very shy. It is a big part of who I am, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.”

But there were others who expressed the challenges they encounter with the genetic defect.

“Many of my subjects explained to me their medical conditions, and how [albinism] affects their daily lives,” Angelina tells Refinery29. “For example, transportation can be a huge issue at times; some can't drive because of their eyesight, and others rely on public transportation and have trouble even seeing stairs.”

Many forms of albinism are associated with nystagmus, which causes involuntary rapid eye movements, strabismus, better known as crossed eyes, or photophobia (light sensitivity). The only treatment for the vision impairments is to wear UV-protected sunglasses to alleviate light sensitivity.

Other challenges included the difficulty in unwanted attention due to her appearance and the need to wear makeup, for another. One of the young women of the project said:

“Albinism has really affected my personality. I can’t be who I am, truly, because of how others look at me and how they treat me. I always stick out in a crowd, I'm always noticed, and most of the time the center of attention, and I don't really want to be.”

These feelings are common as those who are affected by albinism are subjected to bullying at a young age, as revealed by a few of the participants, or even worse as described in this article from The Washington Post. But Angelina d’Auguste’s project reconfirmed the beauty within all of us, even if we don’t all look alike.

Check out the 13 photos from her final thesis below!

Are you loving them? Let us know and check out the lady behind the lens on social media @ninakillaqueen.

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