When words fail us, pictures act as a universal language. And when Christopher Diedo captures life through his lens, he sends a message of what people with Down syndrome can do when others believe in them.
The 27-year-old from Dartford, England, has Down syndrome, learning difficulties and speech and language problems.
He is the youngest of three children with strong Maltese roots. His mother Monica was born and raised in Ħamrun, and his father Andrew, of Maltese parents, taught Art, Drama and Photography in Malta.
And it was his father who introduced Mr Diedo to the camera.
Diagnosed with severe learning difficulties, he started sending his son on assignments to capture people’s reflections in shop windows or photograph boats on the beach.
Many of his pictures were taken at a tangent to the horizon, something that his father tried to correct, but soon realised it was an interesting and creative feature of his son’s photography.
The young man’s breakthrough came in 2009 when he held a solo exhibition at the Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford, Kent, England. He has since then exhibited his work in New York and all over London... and this week he brought his work to Malta.
The exhibition was set up at the Malta Tourism Authority and featured some of his pictures taken over the past five years, when he took up photography as a hobby.
Although the exhibition has closed, a catalogue of all the pictures, which are being sold in aid of Inspire, can be downloaded from the sponsor’s own website which is: www.msvlife.com/diedo
For Mr Diedo, taking pictures helps him “see more of his world”. His main inspirations are the people he meets and places he visits.
“Sharing my world through my photos shows everyone what people like me can do when people believe in us.
“My family always tell me to have a go. This is what I can do with my camera. I wonder what I’ll try next,” he said at his opening speech of the exhibition inaugurated by Culture minister Mario de Marco.
His father Andrew, believes Mr Diedo’s first solo exhibition in Malta, challenged and changed the public’s perception of Down syndrome on the island.
Through the photos, the parents hope patrons saw what people with Down syndrome achieve when others are prepared to believe in them.
For 27 years, they have “peeled away” labels stuck on people with Down syndrome.
“Christopher is a person with Down syndrome, and not a Down syndrome person,” his father said, adding that we have to look at the person first, and not the syndrome.
He recalls when Christopher approached the manager of the Mick Jagger Centre, Nicola Bowden, asking her whether he could exhibit his photos, and her answer was ‘Why not?’ instead of the usual ‘I’ll think about it’, or ‘Send us some pictures and we’ll see’.
Take a look through the eyes of Christopher Diedo on http://christopher-diedo.co.uk