Kintsugi is a Japanese form of art that uses lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum to repair broken pottery pieces by mending them together. This art technique also follows the philosophy where breakage and repair are treated as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. One photographer used this exact technique to celebrate what some would see as imperfections in her son’s body.
A couple weeks ago, Erin Witkowski shared a touching series of photographs dedicated to her son, Grady. She wrote a touching story next to the pictures showcasing Grady in front of a stained glass window, as well as gold flakes delicately placed against his skin. Turns out, those visually compelling details were chosen for a very specific reason.
Erin recalls the day from 10 years ago when she was 21 weeks pregnant with Grady. “This day changed my life forever,” the mother revealed. She described the details that stuck in her memory the most: “I remember the large wooden desk the doctor sat at and the stained glass that towered behind him. It was a cloudy day but the soft light danced through the windows and into my eyes. Grady’s tiny feet [were] kicking my belly as my husband grabbed my hand so we could sit down.” That day, she found out her son has Down Syndrome.
Bored Panda reached out to Erin to hear more about their family and she replied with plenty of details. “We are a family of 6,” Erin introduced her family, “We have 4 kiddos! Mason – 12, Grady – 10, June – 7, and River – 3.” She went on to explain: “Grady is our second born. Paul, my husband (& high school sweetheart) is a Veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. We married 13 years ago after his 4th tour when he got out of the military. Paul stormed Iraq when we first went in so he was ready to get out after 4 tours. He became a police officer in Charlotte, NC after getting out and is now working for the government in law enforcement here in NY.”
Erin recently shared touching photos of her son Grady to celebrate his tenth birthday
The photographer also told the personal story behind the photoshoot
The family resides in Port Jervis, NY. “We were able to buy back my childhood home 19 years after my parents sold it. We are nestled in an old hunting club with 1200 acres and a few lakes. The kids LOVE it! We love to fish, hike, and explore,” Erin detailed.
“I am a full-time professional family photographer for 12 years but truly found my voice and vision after having Grady. He allowed me to see beauty in a whole new way, he gave me the gift of patience as well,” the mother explained, “I see humans as they are and find Grady has given me the gift to accept people in a beautiful way.” The photographer also revealed that she loves traveling the country to photograph families and connect with people to tell their stories.
Erin told us more about Grady, his personality, and his everyday life:
“This is the first year Grady is in school with his siblings. They all go to our local public school together. Grady is THE MAYOR! His personality is HUGE! He LOVES to dance and sing and be the center of attention…He struggles with his words as he has apraxia of speech but this past year, we have had a language explosion. He is very active and healthy… HE LOVES CHURCH! We actually drive 1 hour and 30 minutes every Sunday to attend Liquid Church in Parsippany, NJ, because they have this AMAZING special needs ministry, they make him feel at home and our whole family loved. It is otherworldly the way they make each child accepted no matter their abilities ….it’s a safe place to land at the end of the week….he loves chores and to have a sense of purpose! We are always on some level of heightened watch to care for him since he is a roamer/runner but that seems to be getting better as he gets older. He LOVES his mama!”
“I always say his joy never outweighs his struggles,” the mother reiterated. “That’s the thing about a prenatal diagnosis… it doesn’t predict the soul,” she stressed.
Erin also discussed why she thinks her photo series on Grady went viral:
“I think these photos are shared so widely because they put a beautiful light on often very harsh medical terminology. When a woman first hears nuchal fold, it may put an unknown fear that these photos have now painted in gold… the juxtaposition stops you in your tracks. When the vision came to me… I cried…. (my exact words from that post speak directly to my heart on the images.) Bringing Grady to stained glass was a full circle and healing moment for me. I carry the weight of those words and experience with me every single day. I can remember every moment and detail of the day we found out, and I will never forget that stained glass behind the doctor’s office desk… Grady kicked me so hard that day, the way my hands were sweating, my heart raced and that light made its way through that glass as his words spoke the diagnosis and his timeline for a decision.”