Madeline Stuart is 25 years old, a successful model with over a million followers on social media, and she has Down syndrome. Madeline’s career started when her mother posted some photos of her walking for the first time on a catwalk near her home town in Australia. The photos became viral overnight and Madeline was celebrated as a role model for inclusion and diversity. Soon after, Madeline started flying around the world as a model. Since then, she has walked at hundreds of fashion shows, including seven times at New York Fashion Week. Always by her side and a driving force behind Madeline’s career is her mother and manager, Rosanne Stuart. Rosanne and Madeline depend on each other. Madeline is very limited in her speech and communicates mainly through emotions and facial expressions. Her mother is a single mom and since Madeline’s birth has been defending her daughter against her own family and society. She has always believed in her and in diversity, and supports her daughter in every way she can. Rosanne says, “When I saw Madeline walking on the catwalk in New York for the first time, I cried. It was the first time I thought finally other people can see what I have always seen: That my daughter is precious and beautiful.” Madeline inspires other people. After the shows people want to talk to her and there is an indescribable energy between her and the audience when she gets on the catwalk, which becomes her stage. Does Madeline see herself in the same way other people do: as an activist for inclusion and diversity? What interest does the fashion industry have in her? How is it for her to live in a world where less and less people with Down syndrome are born? This is a story about a devoted mother and daughter relationship, believing in yourself and the value of all human beings. It is about believing that it matters to be seen, and being visible as a person with Down syndrome in society.
Maria Feck (b. 1981) is based in Hamburg, Germany. She has worked as a freelance photographer since 2010, travelling worldwide for her research and reporting. She works for established magazines and newspapers like Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, and Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin. Since 2014, Feck has been represented by laif photo agency. She is interested in telling in-depth stories that give her time to build a relationship of trust and intimacy with the people she photographs. She likes to get close to the people she is photographing, to create photos which transport emotions. Her work focuses on social issues like migration, social changes, and women and gender related topics.