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Change How You See, See How You Change

An Interactive Session with Photographer Rick Guidotti

Rick Guidotti taking a selfie of himself taking a picture of RespectAbility staff and Fellows

Rick Guidotti in front of RespectAbility staff and Fellows

Rockville, Md., Aug. 22 – Rick Guidotti, an award-winning photographer, visited with RespectAbility Fellows earlier this summer and spent the day taking our portraits.

Guidotti became restless of societal standards of beauty after taking pictures of supermodels for renowned publications such as Elle and LIFE magazine.

“I was always told every single day who was beautiful, I was forced within certain parameters,” Guidotti said.

Rick Guidotti stands at the front of the room while fellows sit and listen to him speak

Rick Guidotti speaking to the Fellows

Instead of waiting for society to acknowledge other forms of beauty, Guidotti created Positive Exposure, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for people living with genetic, physical, behavioral and intellectual differences.

In June 2001, Positive Exposure took off after an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. It was a young girl with albinism that inspired Guidotti to create this nonprofit organization that has expanded to a global audience. After seeing the girl, Guidotti read more about albinism. He realized there were no pictures that highlighted the genuine beauty of people with albinism. Instead, he found were pictures of disdain and remorse online.

What I found compelling is that Guidotti does not make the people he photographs “beautiful;” instead he photographs in a way that shows the beauty of diversity and human expression. Guidotti has a certain energy that fills the room with an aura of enthusiasm and eagerness for his unique style of photography. He creates an innovative way to portray people otherwise often ignored in the mainstream standard of beauty.

Guidotti has changed the perspective of what humanity should perceive as beauty. Positive Exposure Ambassadors’ Real Life Stories, or PEARLS, is a program for people with disabilities to write about their experiences. PEARLS also is a tool for people or researchers who want to know more about people with disabilities. In this way, kids and young adults with disabilities have an outlet to share their stories and others can learn from them.

Rick Guidotti aiming his camera and taking a photo of Cal Harris who sits and poses for the picture

Rick Guidotti taking a photo of Cal Harris, RespectAbility Chair

Not only does Guidotti actively engage people with disabilities in his work, but he also involved medical students and hospitals in learning the other side of a disability or an alternate perspective than the “patient-as-a-specimen” model. Guidotti does this through Faces Redefining the Art of Medical Education, or FRAME. FRAME is an online educational tool for people in the healthcare field. Guidotti leads PEARLS and FRAME in conjunction with partners that help with research and identifying patients.

Earlier this month, Guidotti joined RespectAbility’s Board of Advisors. It is obvious when one first meets Guidotti, his enthusiasm for making a change in the definition of beauty has not waned. With a plan to expand and keep growing Positive Exposure, the Fellows at RespectAbility cannot wait to see how Guidotti will make an impact on the disability community.


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.



Meet the Author

Sneha Dave

Sneha Dave is a Policy Fellow. A sophomore at Indiana University, she is the founder of the Crohn’s and Colitis Teen Times, a nonprofit organization with a mission of providing support to teenagers battling Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

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