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Local photographer’s photo recognized here and abroad

A finalist in The Observer’s Stronger Together photo contest, Bloomingdale photographer Natalie Stevanus is also a finalist in the UK’s ‘My Perspective’ contest for the same image of a man walking across a bridge alongside his dog.

The UK contest is an annual event open to photographers from across the world living with down syndrome, one to which Stevanus is no stanger: she’s been a finalist four years running.

Her mother, Linda Stevanus, says Natalie’s talent was noticeable right from the first time she picked up a camera during a family visit to a cottage.

After a successful season at the family’s farm (Stevanus Farms), the family would go on a trip. “We always went away somewhere as a family to kind of regroup and get back into a regular routine,” said Linda.  A standard part of this trip was a visit to the Royal Winter Fair and then a stay at a hotel. However, they decided one year to ask in-laws if they would keep their cottage open. The family visited the cottage the first week of winter and were treated to a snowfall that cut the power, prompting Natalie to head out to take pictures of the surrounding winter wonderland.

It turned out she had a good eye for photography.

Following that discovery, Natalie participated in the ‘buddy walk’ hosted by the local Down syndrome association, which includes a market area. There, vendors can sell crafts, baked goods and pieces of art such as Natalie’s photographs.

“It’s to make people aware positive things about people with Down syndrome, so they rent a space and they do a walk around community with signs,” said Linda.

Natalie also entered an art contest hosted by the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, one year earning an honourable mention. Most of the entries were paintings and drawings, but a worker forwarded an email about the ‘My Perspective’ contest, which Natalie has been entering each year since.

Self-expression can be difficult for those with Down syndrome, but Natalie has embraced photography as a way to display her artistic side – “everything” is her favourite part of photography.

Among the categories in this year’s UK contest is a people’s choice award. Online voting is open until July 20 at 7 p.m. (EDT).

While the family has typically travelled to attend the awards in person, this year’s is strictly a virtual event, as is the case with so many events.

Natalie Stevanus’ photo (inset) was a finalist in a local contest as well as one in the UK. [Damon Maclean]
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