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Defying Expectations: My Photographic Journey

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© Houston Vandergriff with camera

A Unique Travel Photographer

Born into a world of challenges, including Down syndrome, I faced daunting health obstacles from the very start. Yet, I’ve transformed these challenges into a passion for exploration and photography. Today, at 25, I’ve journeyed through all 95 counties in Tennessee, 49 U.S. states, 5 Canadian provinces, and 26 countries. My camera has been my voice, allowing me to express my unique view of the world without needing words.

Overcoming and Communicating Through Photography

The low muscle tone associated with Down syndrome made my speech hard to understand, but photography offered me a clear, vibrant voice. My images share my perspective and inspire both within and outside the disability community. Through my lens, I offer hope and a testament to the fact that everything can be more than just okay.

Inclusion Through Art

I’ve been a self-advocate since a young age, using the universal language of arts to promote inclusion. My journey in photography is not just about capturing beautiful scenes; it’s about advocating for a world where everyone belongs, where every voice finds its medium. My advocacy isn’t confined to one realm. Since age five, I’ve been with a talent agency, appearing in commercials and print, and using my experiences to advocate for inclusion, anti-bullying, and more. Photography and filmmaking have honed my skills in visual storytelling, making me a potent advocate for arts inclusivity.

Certified Talent and Passion

I earned my Certificate of Photography in 2019 and an Advanced Photography Certificate in 2020 from the University of Tennessee. As a member of the Southern Appalachia Nature Photographers and the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance, I’ve dedicated myself to mastering the craft and sharing my perspective with the world.

An Expert Traveler’s Perspective

Traveling is my forte. I thrive on new experiences, cultures, and faces. Whether by plane, train, or water taxi, I embrace each journey with just a carry-on and my trusted camera backpack. Each destination offers a new story, a new adventure, and an opportunity to capture moments that speak louder than words.

From Therapy to World Travels

Years of physical and oral motor therapy, which were essential for me to walk and eat, have led to adventures like hiking in Cinque Terre, exploring glaciers in Iceland, and savoring culinary delights across Europe. These achievements, monumental in their own right, are especially remarkable considering the limitations once foreseen by doctors.

A Lens on the World

My favorite country? I smile and say, “All of ‘em.” Each place I visit adds a chapter to my story, a story I tell through vibrant, expressive photography. My work is my way of celebrating the world, sharing its diverse beauty, and connecting with people across all walks of life.

A Continual Journey of Discovery

“The world is a better place because you are in it and celebrating it through your lens.”

This philosophy guides my every shot, every journey. Join me as I continue to defy expectations, capturing life’s limitless possibilities, one snapshot at a time.

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