This project documents the surprise wedding-themed birthday of a twenty-five
year old woman with Down syndrome.
It’s difficult not to notice Ricchina. When she and her mother Janice boarded the
car on the broken down Amtrak train in Charlottesville bound for New York, we
had been stalled on the tracks for nearly four hours. Ricchina sat by the window
with her elegant hand in her mother’s palm and gazed outward. The light on her
face was soft and even. As the train finally departed and began swaying gently,
she turned and smiled at her mother, then surprisingly at me. Only then was it
apparent that she had Down Syndrome.
Ricchina’s mother Janice is a pretty, extrovert from south Philly. The two of them
have recently returned to Philadelphia to live with Janice’s ninety-two year old
mother, having retreated from Las Vegas after an unspeakable break up. As we
sat side by side, Janice struck up a lively conversation explaining to me that
Ricchina was about to have her 25th birthday and that she dreamed of getting
married. Janice, who cleans houses in addition to two other jobs to make ends
meet, was planning a surprise wedding-themed birthday party for Ricchina
complete with a custom made gown, a rented hall to be stocked with adoring
relatives, a limo and all the wedding trappings, in an attempt to bring her
daughter’s dream to life. There is no groom.
Ricchina depends on Janice for most things. It was my intention while
documenting this story, to describe the complex bond that this mother and
daughter nurture within one another. The photographs explore the challenging
relationship between these two women and the caring family members who