/ Elena Kuzin / Photo story


Initiation project is a conversation with my daughter Sofia, who has Down syndrome. With her help, we reconstruct her arrival in my life, exchanging our roles in order to relive this initiatory journey full of emotions and rich in twists and turns. In order to better feel each other’s emotions we exchanged our roles. I honestly told Sofia how I experienced the acceptance of her Down syndrome, and later her concomitant diseases, and she masterfully played out the situation for my camera. At the same time, I played her role, staging scenes as I remember them.

When my daughter was born, I was 24 and I knew nothing about Down syndrome. Experienced obstetricians saw her diagnosis immediately at birth, and a few days later it was confirmed by a blood test. Nobody could tell me how to live with that unexpected event but they said I could go away and leave her behind in the maternity. There would be no questions. Today my daughter is a beautiful young woman yet her disability will always be a part of our lives. She is now old enough to ask me what her birth was like. And when I tell her about how she came into the world, I always think of the Down syndrome babies abandoned by frightened young parents.

Down syndrome is one of the most common genetic anomalies in the world. However, prenatal diagnosis has made the birth of such children relatively rare: in France, 96% of mothers, who find out about Down syndrome during pregnancy, abort. And one in ten babies born with Down syndrome is abandoned by its parents.

Initiation aims to help young parents who feel the earth slipping from under their feet because their baby has Down syndrome. I remember how difficult it was and I hope they will find their questions answered here. I also hope that my project will help viewers rethink their beliefs about people with Down syndrome and their families. I am sure we have a lot to learn from them. Sofia’s high empathy, incredible kindness and unwavering vitality became my source of inspiration.

Elena Kuzin (1982) is a French photographer working at the crossroads of documentary and art photography. Born in Crimea, she settled in France in 2002. Elena explores issues of trauma, identity and individuality. Her personal projects have been published in numerous on-line and paper magazines (Private Photo Review, Eye of Photography, Republic, PHMuseum, IconicArtist, etc).