Artist Photographs Adults And Children With Special Needs To Capture Their Beauty

by Johanna Silver
Johanna is a writer who lives, works, and volunteers in New York.

There are still plenty of stigmas that surround children with special needs.

Though people are becoming more accepting of differences and disabilities every day, we still seem to have a ways to go until every individual is accepted as the way they were born.

One of the most exemplary outlets for praise and pride is portrait photography.

When families get portraits done of their children, they are showcasing their beauty and their worth in photos that can be shared and celebrated.

These special portrait sessions should be available for every type of family, including those with loved ones who have special needs.

Fortunately, many different photographers are becoming part of the special-needs acceptance process by offering specialized services just for them.

One of them is Stephanie Mullowney of Paperdolls Photography, who photographs many different individuals with special needs.

Through her stunning collection of images, she is challenging everyone to accept beauty in its many different forms.

[H/T: My Modern Met]

Photographer Stephanie Mullowney’s message and mantra is: “Look with your eyes. See with your heart.”

And this sweet message shines through in her portraits, which highlight children and adults with special needs.

Her mission to change the perception of children with disabilities began when her daughter, Hannah Grace, was born with Down syndrome. 

“The moment they laid her on my chest, I knew,” she explained to Digital Rev. “And you know what? I loved her even more.” 

But Mullowney’s husband did not feel the same for Hannah Grace, calling her “defective.”

He left her with the baby girl, alone with no source of income.

Though she was left reeling from the split, relying on relatives and welfare programs to get by, Mullowney was still madly in love with Hannah Grace.

She took “literally hundreds” of pictures of her on her iPhone, eager to show everyone around her how beautiful her daughter was.

And the response when her photos were posted online was overwhelmingly positive, not only for Hannah Grace, but for the photography itself.

Families in similar situations, with special-needs children and loved ones, wanted to showcase their stories as well as show how beautiful they were — and they wanted Mullowney to do it.

So she set out to pursue her photography professionally, specializing in portraits of individuals with special needs.

Paperdolls Photography was then born from all of that struggle and passion.

Since then, she has been in high demand all over the country, with families flying to meet her and have their family photographed.

Mullowney is now living her dream and working to shatter perceptions of children with disabilities, one photo at a time.

“They are real and do not put on a fake show. I know that when I photograph them that the image will be genuine and the very raw version of their best selves,” she explains

Treating her subjects as a photographer would with any other subjects, she curates poses, locations, and moods that capture their truest selves.

Her success is a testament to how many families love and accept their children just the way they are, and want others to see just how beautiful they can be.

In an age where traditional beauty standards are constantly being challenged for the better, Mullowney is taking on a massive societal misconception and slowly chipping away at what people think is beautiful.

And with so many beautiful photos being brought into the world, hopefully people like Mullowney’s husband will learn how to accept these children and adults for who they are.

“They are who they are all of the time, and that’s what I love most. They perceive others as people and not labels, so why shouldn’t they deserve to be viewed the same?” she states.

Selfless and accepting individuals like her are helping to destigmatize Down syndrome and other disabilities that some don’t find worthy of praise, acceptance, or professional photography.

She states,”Each story touches a heart. And when a heart is touched, it is changed, and when the heart is changed, so is the mind.”


We look forward to more portraits from Paperdolls Photography, and we hope her mantra — “Look with your eyes, see with your heart” — will become universal.

If you believe every child is beautiful, and deserves to be celebrated, please SHARE these touching photos on Facebook!