Rock Center   |  June 07, 2013

Fashion photog captures a new kind of beauty

Rick Guidotti's life has been all about beauty and the power of images.  He spent years as a fashion photographer in Milan, Paris, and New York. But 15 years ago, while photographing a woman with Albinism, Guidotti was shocked by images in medical textbooks. Those medical pictures changed his life and ever since Guidotti has devoted his talent to the disabled. Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and we often hear ourselves saying beauty is in the eye of the beholder . too often people say that to make someone feel better. our society has some pretty set ideas as to beauty and knowing it when we see it. our next story, though, is about a photographer who wants to change that. he wants to open our eyes to new ways of appreciating the people around us, and that means all of them. here again with his story dr. nancy snyderman .

>> it's not about saying compare claude yeah schiffer and cindy crawford to this girl. it's about reinterpreting beauty . about having an opportunity to see beyond what you're told and what we're forced to believe that that's beauty .

>> reporter: rick guidotti's life has been all about beauty and the power of images. he spent years as a fashion photographer in milan, paris and with a studio in new york. always shooting what fashion editors decreed to be beauty . then 15 years ago, when he considered photographing a woman with a disability, he was shocked at images in medical textbooks he consulted. where, he asked, is the humanity.

>> that doesn't work like that. this doesn't help. this is sad.

>> reporter: i haven't looked at these in 25 years.

>> terrifying. other ways to present this. i spoke to so many genetic counselors, this is what your daughter's going to have. read this. and they cover up the photograph. it will freak the family right out. there's got to be something else that we can do, another way to present that information to that family.

>> reporter: his medical pictures changed his life. ever since then he's devoted his talent to the disabled. people like kiara. she has albannism, a congenital disorder that not only affects pigmentation but vision.

>> they told her, don't be a dancer. you don't have the vision. you'll never dance. she said, no, she's new england's celtic dance champion.

>> reporter: his pictures are nothing short of stunning. they're being exhibited in public places around the world. aimed at changing how we see people who appear different, but he started with albanism. who was the first person you photographed and i see something so different?

>> it was christine. christine walked into the studio, and she's beautiful. she has long, long, long white hair , pale skin, but she walks in like this, no eye contact , one-word answers. this kid was teased every single day in her life. it was like holding up a mirror and saying look at yourself . you're magnificent. and she saw it. that's her. i mean, she's so beautiful. and she changed right in front of the lens.

>> reporter: she was nothing like the pictures of albannism he had found in medical textbooks.

>> these are the images i saw. but i saw freak circus albino families and this is horrible. then all the movie references. usually the bad guy, the evil albino .

>> reporter: he approached other women who had been born with albanism, people like margaret breed.

>> i hadn't seen myself like that before when he approached me and said, i want to photograph you. you're beautiful. definitely hadn't been in my vocabulary for thinking about myself.

>> i started hearing their stories, so i called "life" magazine, i've got this great story.

>> reporter: six weeks later a major spread in "life" magazine. then someone said it's not just about people with albanism, but would you come and photograph our families in san antonio . i'm thinking what the hell is a chromosome 18 anomaly?

>> reporter: it is a genetic defect that can produce a whole range of severe malformation. were you shocked?

>> like i got slapped in the head, punched in the stomach. it ended. what happens if we're having a baby and we find out that this baby is born with a chromosome 18 and that's what you see.

>> reporter: can you make beauty out of a chromosome 18 ?

>> there's gorgeousness there. that's gorgeous kid. that's pauline, rebecca. ellington. these are all from the chromosome 18 . she's stunning, she's amazing.

>> reporter: the subject of a film to be released later this year. joanna ruddnick followed him to families whose children have chromosome 18 anomalies.

>> pictures of him the way i saw him. not the way everybody else saw him, but the way i saw him. and it was the first time i had somebody tell me how beautiful he was. he didn't tell me he was small, he didn't tell me he had fat cheeks from his steroids. and they were the most beautiful pictures of this blue-eyed little baby.

>> reporter: one of the film's subjects is dr. nadia merchant, now a resident at dayton children's hospital. dr. merchant knows all about being different.

>> the curiosity look and the stare. the stare, i just look away . the curiosity look, i mean, if somebody's curious, i might as well be nice to them because i feel like you win their heart if you be nice to them. hello, how are you? i did it myself. i see somebody in a wheelchair.

>> reporter: how should one react?

>> you have the opportunity to know what to do when you see somebody who has a very strange gait and a very significant difference. there's no reason to walk around someone. the difference isn't that different. have you seen the presentation?

>> yes, we have.

>> reporter: so last year. guidotti's hope lies in young medical students . he's a regular on campuses around the country.

>> i really want to hear your opinion on that. the idea is to make sure that humanity is in medicine. to make sure we don't see just the disease, a diagnosis, but the human being . we know there's a lot of science in medicine, but i can assure you there's a lot of art in medicine as well. that's so important. it's not what you're treating, it's who you're treating. when you look at a medical type photograph le this, like that, that's marfan 's syndrome.

>> that's what i grew up with.

>> this give us stuff to play with. that tells you what marfan 's syndrome looks like. you see long connective tissue. that's him showing off his scoliosis. that's what you remember.

>> i love to sing, dance and act as much as humanly possible. i was born with a genetic disorder called marfan 's syndrome.

>> reporter: he is making videos for patients to explain their illnesses in their own words.

>> as you can see, my chest points out towards the front, so that the distance between my sternum and my back is pretty long. this is known as tectus taranatum.

>> what i give you is that little get out of jail free card. you have that one moment you can think a little differently and you can say, i dare you to see beauty . once you see it, it overwhelms you. it's extraordinary.

>> dr. nancy snyderman reporting once again for us tonight on this attempt to redefine beauty .