Dania Patricia Maxwell’s first goal was to become a teacher. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College she traveled to Shanghai, China to teach English and Geography for one year. ” I went to China with the idea that I could come back to the states to begin a safe career working as a teacher. The summer vacations would provide me with time to work as a photojournalist. Once completing the year, however, I realized that I would never be a photographer if I were working towards a different career. I realized that the greatest failure would be to realize a passion and choose against it because of fear. With that in mind I moved from Shanghai to San Francisco where I collected experience that would lead me to becoming a photojournalist.”
What Dania may not realize is that she IS a teacher, passing on her knowledge and insights through her lens and experiences. Now a graduate from the School of Visual Communication , Dania worked as an intern at the Sandusky Register in Sandusky, Ohio and later at the The Oregonian. I have more questions than answers, but like Rainer Maria Rilke says, I have to live the questions to arrive at the answers. I’m interested in learning about the world and about what is meaningful. Photography provides me with the tools to get closer to people and their stories. My hope is that if I’m learning someone else will too.
The series I am featuring below is Distinctly, about twin sisters who are alike, yet different.
Distinctively: Ella and Eavan Kuehnle were born only three minutes apart—identical twins that are separated by a large distinction: Ella has Down syndrome while Eavan does not.
Their mother, Kimberly “Kim” Kuehnle, spent two months during the summer of 2004 in the hospital before giving birth to the twins. Her umbilical chord was not providing proper flow to one of her soon-to-be daughters. Seven days after the twins were born, Kim and Jonathan drove home without a briefing from their caregivers. They knew only the contents of the orange folder: five pages of problems associated with Downs and a scientific definition of the type of Down syndrome Ella had.
“I think I cried every day for three months,” Kim said. “Jonathan told me that it didn’t matter what Ella has because she is still our baby. I cried also because he was more accepting that I was.”
When Kim made the call to Help me Grow, a state and federally funded organization in Cincinnati that offers therapy services for infants with developmental delays, she began to learn about and accept her daughter’s prognosis.
The activities that Kim and Jonathan participate in, coincide with the desire to increase awareness of Down syndrome. It is in the process of relating to people, who are not typical, that decreases the probability to make hurtful remarks. “We need to mainstream our Special Education or people with disabilities,” Jonathan said.
Kim and Jonathan Kuehnle know that there are too many beginnings for their twins to decide on any ends. “Ella may need some assistance when she’s older,” said Jonathan. “She’s 6 right now, so we just don’t know.”