Like a number of photographers, Houston Vandergriff has developed on a purely pure present by researching his artwork. Further than 200 a number of hours of programs on the Coronary heart for Skilled Instruction and Lifelong Mastering on the School of Tennessee, Knoxville, aided him enhance the specialised and artistic procedures he takes benefit of on portraits, landscapes, and movement pictures.
Vandergriff was born with Down syndrome and a gap in his coronary coronary heart. Physicians thought he wouldn’t endure, however his dad and mom skilled different ideas. “When Houston was born,” states his father, David, a 1979 graduate of UT’s Tickle College of Engineering, “my partner Katie and I decided we had been heading to provide him each risk to do each little factor that our daughters, Maranda and Elisa, did.” Partly since of her particular person fascination within the arts, Katie skilled inspired their daughters to go after drama, painting, and different inventive actions. Maranda is now ingenious director of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Centre, and Elisa is a contract internet developer and digital media skilled.
Now, at 24, Houston has at present constructed a profitable occupation as a photographer. He sells scenic pictures from his intensive travels along with his relations, donating the proceeds to charities. A current calendar offered out twice. His function has made him a TikTok star, with 400,000 followers and much more than 23 million views.
Vandergriff’s web site, DownsandTowns.com, precisely the place he sells his get the job accomplished, incorporates a succinct abstract: “He has traveled far and intensive and hopes his footage will encourage some others to reside life to the fullest and to reside day by day life with compassion. Houston has a quite simple eyesight along with his footage: Make the setting a much better place.”
Bringing Ardour into Purpose
Vandergriff started getting pics as a preschooler when his mother and pop gave him a disposable digital digicam, and he grew additional essential in a center college 4-H picture utility. Then, along with his Nikon D7100 and his mom by his aspect, he accomplished additional than 200 a number of hours of analysis by UT’s Heart for Skilled Training and studying and Lifelong Learning, incomes a certificates of photographs in 2019 and an state-of-the-art certification in 2020.
“All his photographs classmates promptly fell in respect with Houston and had been completely supportive of his improvement as a photographer, as ended up his noncredit pictures instructors,” says Darrin Devault, director of each the center and its photographs certificates packages. “He has a eager eye for capturing superb pictures that encourage others—notably his panorama images which were snapped all through his repeated family visits abroad.”
David Vandergriff agrees: “Houston is great at capturing that various perspective. He’ll go off to the side and are available throughout a wiser method of looking at one thing. It arrives all through as magnificent in so a variety of strategies.”
David is a mechanical engineer who usually travels for function, notably to the south of France as a subcontractor supporting Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory’s portion in organising the ITER Tokamak nuclear fusion reactor. “After I journey, Houston can go along with me,” he claims.
Vandergriff has captured enticing pictures of the French countryside on these individuals outings, as successfully as footage from a household check out to Maranda in Italy and different travels. He has been to all 95 counties in Tennessee, 49 of the 50 United States, 5 Canadian provinces, and 26 nations. When requested his most liked state, he smiles and suggests, “All of ’em.”
When the family went on a mission tour with Preliminary Baptist Church of Powell to rebuild a church in Guatemala, they discovered concerning the problems with explicit wants younger youngsters there. Vandergriff fastened to donate proceeds from picture income to a Guatemalan nonprofit.
Sharing the Reward of Hope
“Downsandtowns.com is about consciousness and advocacy for distinctive wishes,” claims David. “Sure, Houston has Down syndrome. However that has not minimal what he’s able to do or the place by he’s able to do it.”
Houston interned as a photographer at ORNL because of the Absolute best Knoxville (Bridge to Employment in Firm and Tourism) program. Each week, he delivers Cell Meals along with his grandmother, Marilyn Umstead. He’ll work in the future a 7 days on the Fortunate Day Resale and Reward Store on Western Avenue. He competes because of Knoxville Challenger Sporting actions, an company that provides youngsters and youthful grownups with unique calls for with alternatives in soccer, basketball, golf, swimming, and bowling. He additionally serves as crew major for his father’s 1992 BMW endurance racing workforce.
“For getting portraits, he’s so genuine,” suggests David. “He’s a vibrant star. He has essentially the most magnetic character of any particular person I do know. He has a method of drawing women and men in. He makes all individuals really really feel cosy. He makes them really really feel at relieve.”
Requested how he got here to be so outgoing, Houston solutions speedily and certainly, “I used to be born that method.”