A smile like mine and yours

Joy of disabled children captured
Kristien Kruger
"It takes a special person and photographer with a lot of character to look at a child with a disability and see the joy and beauty in it."
This is what the Side by Side Early Intervention Centre's managing director, Huipie van Wyk, said about the photographer Lourika Breed, who recently did a photoshoot at the centre in Katutura.
"I visited every classroom and captured happy moments of everyone doing an obstacle course. By the time we reached the last classroom, I just couldn't hold it in anymore and the tears just started flowing. They are all so happy!" Lourika said.
A team member at Side by Side, Teagan Hohls, believes that photoshoots bring out the children's joy and are important to show Namibia what a child with a disability is capable of.
"Every photo speaks volumes without even saying a word, and that's what we want from these photoshoots; to leave a footprint in society for disability," she said.
Although Breed is a photographer who mainly takes family photos, she has a passion for documentary photos. "It was my first love, so if I get the opportunity to take pictures like this, I'll take it!"
She also enjoys working with organisations and thoroughly enjoyed the photoshoot at Side by Side. "The children are all so happy. They run up to you, give hugs and immediately start saying 'cheese' when they see the camera. Then you realise that they don't think of themselves as children with disabilities," Lourika said.
Lourika got her first camera when she was 12 and her family's cats and dogs were some of her first models. By 17, she got her first digital camera, but she only began following her passion seriously in 2011.
“I was in Thailand for more than two years and there I did photography courses, practised, played and started my website. In December 2013 I returned to Namibia and photographed my first family session."
She loves children and she says her favourite part of her job is the people. Her goal is to give families "works of art" with beautiful light and breathtaking backgrounds.
"Hair blowing over your little girl's face. A silhouette of your little boy's body against the sunset. Not just 'stand there by the tree and say cheese', no!"
Her work at Side by Side was for their annual shoot. The team wanted to take more relaxed photos of the children this year.
"I'm always excited to take their pictures and I do it for the love of it."
Both Huipie and Teagan agree that there is a lack of inclusiveness of disabled children in Namibia.
"Society so easily excludes these children. It's just ignorance. We don't understand disability. The parents feel excluded. The mothers sometimes feel they are not part of society and often hide their children because people don't understand," Huipie said.
Side by Side aims to create an inclusive space where children with different abilities can flourish and reach their full potential.
"Suffering is a choice. Saying you are a victim is a choice. You have control. These photos show that these children are not victims of their disabilities," Huipie said. "They are so much more than the boxes people put them in and if the children know that, why don't we know that too?" – [email protected]