My 8-year old daughter and I were swimming at a public pool one day this summer when she suddenly exclaimed, “That’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen! She’s like an angel.” I turned to see the girl, about 16, with alabaster skin and snow white hair, making her way into the water. I immediately recognized her as a person with albinism, a pigment disorder that affects the hair, skin, and eyes. Although I didn’t want to stare, it was difficult to look away from such luminous, and fragile, beauty.
Because people with albinism lack melanin to protect their skin, they must be very careful in the sun. In just a few short moments, she was out the pool, wrapped in a protective towel and seeking shelter under an umbrella.
I approached what turned out to be the girl’s grandmother, to share my daughter’s appreciation of this unfamiliar form of beauty. The grandmother was touched by the comments and explained that albinism made her granddaughter extremely self conscious. We discussed how any difference will make a 16-year old feel like an outsider, let alone a rare genetic disorder. But we hoped that my daughter’s comments would help the girl to feel beautiful instead of different, if only for a few moments.
Turns out, my daughter isn’t the only one who marvels at the majesty of albinism. Brazilian artist Gustavo Lacerda has created a photographic portfolio of people with albinism to celebrate ’those who have always been an outsider.’ In an interview with The Daily Mail, Lacerda said that many of his subjects’ discomfort turned to pride as the photo sessions progressed. To view Lacerda’s stunning images, please visit Lacerda’s web site.