The artist deals with issues of social exclusion and marginalisation. Down syndrome is an element which contributes to the uncommon beauty of his photographs.
Petersen’s title includes a play on words: Downtown could be a town of people with Down syndrome, although literally it means the city centre.
In his text to accompany the photographs, Oiko Petersen writes that, via this project, he would like to invite everyone to the titular Downtown, a surprising and touching place, full of lights, music and amazing adventures. He also alludes to the Petula Clark song, in which she sings: ‘You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, so go downtown!’
At the exhibition opening in Olsztyn, the artist explained how this project was born when his sister had a baby with Down syndrome. Before photographing the series, Petersen joined his subjects in their day-to-day activities, danced hip-hop with them, and went to the swimming pool.
Petersen’s subversive set of pictures blends fashion-shoot style with socially committed photography, showcasing people unlike those to be found in fashion and lifestyle magazines aimed at (as Adam Mazur rightly pointed out) ‘ordinary’ people.
Petersen’s several-year search resulted in a series that portrays social exclusion without sentimentality or pity. Professor Elżbieta Zakrzewska-Manterys of the University of Warsaw’s Institute of Applied Social Sciences summed up the project as follows:
Originally written in Polish, translated by MB, Nov 2018
This text is part of the project Metaphors of Independence: Poland In 100 Photos.
To coincide with the centenary of Poland regaining its independence, we have created a selection of photographs that allow us to understand both yesterday and today. A hundred photographs but so much more. Find out more.