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New blind support group

10 August 2004

Foundation of the Blind Media Release

New blind support group generated from top fashion photographer’s pursuit of beauty

Getting a job as a top-notch fashion photographer would be a dream come true for many, but Rick Guidotti gave it up to help people with albinism.

Rick’s decision now helps to change the lives of people affected with albinism in New Zealand and worldwide.

About 250 people in New Zealand have albinism, a rare genetic condition that causes the absence of pigment in hair, skin and eyes, often resulting in a ghostly paleness and degrees of vision loss.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) supports people affected by albinism and Rick Guidotti was attracted to the Foundation’s work when he visited New Zealand a few years back.

Guidotti returned here recently to meet with the more than 25 albino RNZFB members he had photographed during his visit five years ago.

This most recent trip was the spark that albino and RNZFB member Allen Little needed to establish New Zealand’s first ever support group for people with albinism.

“Rick’s timing was perfect,” says Allen, “the need for a support group for New Zealand albino’s has been growing for some time.

“Whilst we are a small and scattered group in the population, because of the way we look we tend to stand out in a crowd.

“For many that causes all sorts of issues and we often have to deal with different levels of discrimination from the wider community.

“Developing a network of support that can nurture albinos of all ages from all backgrounds is really important for self-esteem and confidence – and to simply share experiences.”

Allen says in response to the interest from a variety of people an Albinism Trust is being registered to promote positive information about this condition.

So what made Rick Guidotti, a photographer in hot demand by fashion labels like Revlon and Yves St Laurent, change his priorities and the way he defined beauty.

He says, “It all began when I spotted a young woman with albinism waiting for a bus in New York. She was absolutely stunning but I knew she would never have been included in the beauty standard. So there was a shift in my life at that time.”

He now runs an American-based non-profit organisation called Positive Exposure that is working to reduce the stigma that surrounds Albinism.

TV3’s Inside New Zealand documentary Albino features Rick Guidotti, Allen Little and many other RNZFB members challenged by albinism.

Mr Little says, “This documentary serves as a wonderful opportunity for people to learn more about albinism and increase public awareness.”

He says that it can act as a starting point that will help change ignorance and celebrate diversity.

Find out what albinism is and meet the people who have to live life with the rare but unmistakable condition when TV3’s Inside New Zealand screens Albino on, Thursday 12 August at 8.30 p.m.

Internationally, the incidence of albinism is 1:20,000, although in Panama it is 1:25.

ENDS

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