Krystal and Tammy, members of the Down syndrome community in Canada, began dating nine months ago. "Love comes in different forms—and love is love," Krystal says.
What an achingly simple yet powerful definition of what people can mean to each other. We meet this young couple, and some of their peers—including singles—in a digital project from the Canadian Down Syndrome Society:
Timed to World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, the "Love Means..." initiative touches on romance, friendship, gender identity and sexuality. Propelled by photographer Hilary Gauld's stunning monochrome stills, nine different stories unfold in words and pictures:
"I held the photo sessions over three days," Gauld tells Muse. "The majority were done in my studio. I also went to two homes and set up in their living rooms. There was some posing direction, but as we got the music going and started talking, it was very natural for each couple or person to move and express themselves as they are."
Here's an equally affecting "Love Means..." video:
"Depictions of love within the Down syndrome community are seldom shown," says CDSS executive director Laura LaChance. "Recent years have brought about increased appreciation, understanding and media portrayals of love across neurodiversity, gender identity, expression and culture. Yet, the Down syndrome community has largely been excluded. This photo series brings them into the conversation."
"Love Means..." dovetails with this push from Italian charity CoorDown, which tunefully explores similar territory.
"Their approach is very different," notes LaChance. "Our goal is to inspire, educate and create space for greater visibility of the experiences adults with Down syndrome navigate. Both these campaigns do that. The more the merrier!"
Past CDSS efforts (in collaboration with FCB Canada, which didn't work on "Love Means...") have generated considerable praise and attention. Recent topics include fitness as a key to better cognition and finding ways to improve how voice assistants function for those facing developmental challenges.
In 2017, the CDSS taught us that "sorry" is a word best left unsaid. The previous year's PSAs, with Down folks fielding oft-Googled queries about their condition, garnered worldwide acclaim.
Such efforts masterfully demystify Down syndrome, as we get to know vibrant, multifaceted individuals with a range of hopes, dreams, fears and aspirations.
The intimate nature of "Love Means..." marks a new step in that journey. Gauld frames important themes in an incisive, relatable way, and her subjects' warmth and humanity consistently shine.
See more photos below.
Click the images to enlarge and scroll through: