From photography, filmmaking to fashion and dance, Aarti Ajay Shah, who was born with Down’s Syndrome, shows the world what it takes to transform one’s dreams into reality and how to live a life more normal than normal people.
Twenty-one year old Indian Aarti Ajay Shah changed the lens on her Cannon 1100D DSLR and adjusted its focus on the magnificent Atlantis Hotel located on the Crescent of Palm Jumeirah. Standing about 70 feet away from the hotel, she expressed her desire for taking a far angle shot of her hotel and snapped several images till she got the ‘perfect shot’.
Unlike other amateur photographers, Aarti’s pictures would be far more unique because she was born with Down’s Syndrome, condition in which extra genetic material causes delay the way a child develops, both physically and mentally.
Aarti, youngest among her siblings, has been a student of Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs, Al Barsha, for the last five years. She is now all set to start a career as the official photographer for Al Noor from September onwards.
Aarti’s mother Avani Shah told Khaleej Times: “After she got the job at Al Noor, I proudly tell my older children that she managed to get a paying job at the age of 21, which is an achievement in itself.”
Aarti’s interest in photography began after she got a chance to direct a short film called Slam Downs along with some other students of her school. The short film was also screened at the Children’s International Film fest held annually in the UAE.
“She directed about 20 per cent of the movie and obviously she was guided on how to do it. The short film was about a game (sport) played between students of her centre and normal kids of another school. It was after this filmmaking project that she took up a brief course on photography from Motivate Publishing, and then there was no looking back for Aarti,” said Avani.
Aarti’s family has been residing in the UAE for the last 12 years. They used to live in Kenya before moving to Dubai.
“Before we moved to Dubai, Aarti used to study in an integrated school in Kenya, along with normal school kids. She began her schooling with the Dubai Centre for Special Needs and initially it was difficult for us to accept that she will be in a special needs school. However, she eventually managed to adjust with the new environment,” said Avani.
“Apart from photography, she will also be working as a data analyst for the centre as she has been doing it for the last two and a half years. She also occasionally works at the centre’s library,” Avani said.
Apart from landscape and portrait photography, Aarti has also confessed to being interested in fashion photography. She recently attended a fashion event hosted by popular Emirati fashion designer Lamya Abedin, who unveiled her latest Mexican-inspired collection of abayas at the Galeries Lafayette, The Dubai Mall. Abedin announced that she will donate a percentage of the proceeds from the sales of her exclusive intricate designs/creations to Al Noor.
“Aarti is very fashion conscious. She loves to do her nails and loves bright clothes, bangles and rings. She enjoyed the fashion event and is looking forward to working with Lamya in the future as well,” said Avani.
Aarti said: “I want to be a professional photographer and I want to learn more on how to use a camera. I learned a lot about photography from the centre and from videos on the Internet.” She added: “Apart from photography, I also want to become a dancer. I love skirts and long dresses as well.”
Isphana Al Khakib, Director of Al Noor Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs, said: “At Al Noor we make sure the programme we run at the centre taps the potential the children show. We want to integrate their potential into the wider community. In Aarti’s case, she likes photography and had good people skills as well. We are also always trying to find opportunities for them.”