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UT grad with Down Syndrome recognized world-wide for photography skills

He’s traveled with his family to 26 countries and 48 states snapping pictures, making friends, and winning international photography awards along the way.
Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 5:09 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 13, 2021 at 1:13 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - One University of Tennessee graduate is not letting his disability hold him back. Houston Vandergriff is becoming a shining star on Facebook with his award-winning photography skills.

The 23-year-old is recognized around the world for his acting and photography skills. He’s traveled with his family to 26 countries and 48 states snapping pictures, making friends, and winning international photography awards along the way.

While Houston is capturing beauty, his dad David says Houston is also capturing hearts.

“People will open up and it is like a superpower. It’s a power we don’t possess and he’s willing to meet people and introduce us to the world that we wouldn’t otherwise get to see,” said David.

Houston’s photos caught the attention of photographer Juliet Furst who runs the T21 Project.

“It’s a photo project celebrating down syndrome,” said Furst.

Furst linked up with Houston to snap a few pictures of him and share what makes him special with her Facebook followers.

“I think for a lot of them it’s the first time they’ve seen pictures from someone with down syndrome that are award-winning quality. I think they have the ability to single out the positives and encourage each of us to look up from what we are doing and focus on those too,” said Furst

The post reached hundreds of people who call him an inspiration.

“The world doesn’t always understand their situation. Houston doesn’t care and he breaks down those barriers,” said David.

Houston is shattering myths and inspiring others to smile.

He is featured on the T-21 Project Facebook page, which celebrates people like him who have Down Syndrome.

Houston’s parents say their son is different in the best ways.

His father says Houston rarely meets a stranger and has brought joy to many people’s lives through his photography, “People will open up and it is like a superpower. It’s a power we don’t possess and he’s willing to meet people and introduce us to the world that we wouldn’t otherwise get to see.”

You can see some of Houston’s work on his Instagram page.

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