What do you believe in

Henrike Stahl

2012 - Ongoing

Île-de-France, France

My daughter Rio was born in 2012 with Down Syndrome. I could not take photos for a long time afterward. I had to reposition myself. In other projects, I photographed her life. But what did it mean for me to have a handicapped child? My perception of beauty in general was completely turned topsy-turvy. And where was my new place in it all? How could I make a happy end?

A lot of moms disqualify their children as their so-called “sun children” to protect them against all the ideas or concepts in which they don't exist. But you are not born with this kind of positive thinking, without having the slightest doubt, unless you lie to yourself. We have gone through many dark, empty or hopeless moments to finally get to where we are today. It took me three years. To understand. And to rediscover a sense of “beauty”.

And suddenly, I understood.

This series is not only about Rio. It is about me, how I felt. I am often asked about it without being asked about her. I can see it in the expression on people's faces. This series is the most honest testimony I can give about my path – after giving birth to my handicapped child.

This is my life journey. The ambiguity of every moment is now part of my life forever. About the little successes in the “drawbacks” – which are truly unbelievable triumphs. It turns stone landscapes for me into meadows full of color. As if snow was falling in the middle of the summer – and likewise. What is full, what is empty? And work, never-ending, and construction. Constructing and relentlessly reconstructing.

I look at people directly today. I don't like retouching anymore. I see beauty in what is rough, in hard work, in construction. She has sent me once again to the heights of Indonesia's volcanoes, into the dry desert of Chile, into the wide waters of the Ganges and shows me the joie de vivre of Rio de Janeiro every single day. Today, Rio and I dance more than ever before – because only sad people don't dance.” Henrike Stahl

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