Like many photographers, Houston Vandergriff has crafted on a purely natural gift by learning his artwork. Additional than 200 several hours of programs at the Center for Skilled Schooling and Lifelong Discovering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, helped him improve the technological and creative procedures he employs on portraits, landscapes, and action photographs.
Vandergriff was born with Down syndrome and a hole in his heart. Medical doctors imagined he would not endure, but his mother and father had other ideas. “When Houston was born,” says his father, David, a 1979 graduate of UT’s Tickle College of Engineering, “my wife Katie and I decided we had been heading to give him each individual option to do every thing that our daughters, Maranda and Elisa, did.” Partly due to the fact of her have fascination in the arts, Katie experienced encouraged their daughters to go after drama, painting, and other imaginative things to do. Maranda is now resourceful director of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Heart, and Elisa is a freelance net developer and electronic media expert.
Now, at 24, Houston has now constructed a effective profession as a photographer. He sells scenic shots from his extensive travels with his family, donating the proceeds to charities. A the latest calendar offered out 2 times. His perform has created him a TikTok star, with 400,000 followers and extra than 23 million sights.
Vandergriff’s internet site, DownsandTowns.com, the place he sells his perform, features a succinct summary: “He has traveled far and extensive and hopes his images will encourage others to dwell lifetime to the fullest and to live life with compassion. Houston has a simple eyesight with his images: Make the entire world a better place.”
Bringing Enthusiasm into Concentration
Vandergriff began taking photos as a preschooler when his moms and dads gave him a disposable camera, and he grew much more critical in a center college 4-H photo system. Then, with his Nikon D7100 and his mom by his aspect, he concluded far more than 200 hours of examine as a result of UT’s Center for Expert Training and Lifelong Finding out, earning a certificate of photography in 2019 and an highly developed certification in 2020.
“All his images classmates straight away fell in really like with Houston and ended up absolutely supportive of his development as a photographer, as ended up his noncredit photography instructors,” suggests Darrin Devault, director of equally the centre and its images certification packages. “He has a eager eye for capturing remarkable photos that inspire others—particularly his landscape images that were being snapped through his regular relatives outings abroad.”
David Vandergriff agrees: “Houston is very good at capturing that different viewpoint. He’ll go off to the facet and come across a wiser way of searching at some thing. It arrives throughout as amazing in so numerous strategies.”
David is a mechanical engineer who often travels for do the job, notably to the south of France as a subcontractor supporting Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory’s component in constructing the ITER Tokamak nuclear fusion reactor. “When I journey, Houston can go with me,” he states.
Vandergriff has captured lovely photographs of the French countryside on these trips, as nicely as shots from a family members visit to Maranda in Italy and other travels. He has been to all 95 counties in Tennessee, 49 of the 50 United States, 5 Canadian provinces, and 26 international locations. When questioned his favored country, he smiles and suggests, “All of ’em.”
When the family went on a mission excursion with To start with Baptist Church of Powell to rebuild a church in Guatemala, they figured out about the issues of unique wants small children there. Vandergriff fixed to donate proceeds from image income to a Guatemalan nonprofit.
Sharing the Present of Hope
“Downsandtowns.com is about awareness and advocacy for particular demands,” suggests David. “Yes, Houston has Down syndrome. But that has not confined what he’s in a position to do or exactly where he’s in a position to do it.”
Houston interned as a photographer at ORNL by way of the Ideal Knoxville (Bridge to Work in Company and Tourism) application. Each individual week, he provides Cell Foods with his grandmother, Marilyn Umstead. He is effective 1 day a 7 days at the Fortunate Day Resale and Gift Store on Western Avenue. He competes via Knoxville Challenger Sports activities, an business that provides small children and youthful grown ups with particular requirements with prospects in soccer, basketball, golf, swimming, and bowling. He also serves as crew main for his father’s 1992 BMW endurance racing team.
“For getting portraits, he is so reliable,” states David. “He is a vibrant star. He has the most magnetic character of anybody I know. He has a way of drawing individuals in. He makes everyone come to feel comfortable. He would make them experience at ease.”
Requested how he came to be so outgoing, Houston solutions swiftly and certainly, “I was born that way.”