Photographer Debbie Todd strives for inclusivity with portraits

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Debbie ToddImage source, Debbie Todd
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Debbie Todd uses her photography to celebrate people and their stories

At the age of 38, Debbie Todd decided to dust off her camera and enrol for a degree in photography. Four years later, she is preparing her first book having won one award and been shortlisted for another for her work capturing and celebrating people's differences.

Most people are taken aback when Debbie first asks if she can take their picture, the 42-year-old says.

"They say 'but I'm not a model', but my reply is 'what is a model? Everyone is a model."

Debbie's work celebrates people's unique qualities, be it a disability, an unusual style or a different attitude.

"I want people to feel more confident and not alone if they have differences," the photographer from between Stanley and Consett, County Durham, says, adding: "I would love the world to become more inclusive. You hardly ever see anyone with differences in fashion shows or adverts."

Debbie has photographed about 40 people so far and has more subjects in the pipeline. She finds people via social media or simply out on the street.

Image source, Debbie Todd
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Debbie Todd likes to celebrate people's differences

Of those she approaches, "99.9%" are happy to pose for her, she says, albeit often with bemusement at having been singled out for a portrait.

Having left school with three GCSEs (C grades in English language, literature and media studies), Debbie flitted between jobs and raising her family before finally deciding to properly study photography, a hobby she had always enjoyed although she had not practised it for some years.

She enrolled in a Bachelors degree at the Northern School of Art in Hartlepool, which ended this summer with her winning the school's photography award and making the final of the Association of Photographers Student Awards 2022. She is now preparing to begin a Masters degree.

Her most recent project was all about the people who caught her eye, and is now working on a book celebrating her subjects.

Here are just some of those she photographed.

Image source, Debbie Todd
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'Butterflies on your stomach' features Chloe-Anne who has multiple sclerosis
Image source, Debbie Todd
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Debbie has also photographed animals such as Rex, a rescue dog who is the subject 'Bite the hand that feeds you'
Image source, Debbie Todd
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'Can't hear yourself think' is a portrait of a man called Euan who has autism
Image source, Debbie Todd
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Hannah, who has Hay-Wells syndrome, is the subject of 'Keep your hair on'
Image source, Debbie Todd
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'Good things come in small packages' features Holly, who has dwarfism
Image source, Debbie Todd
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South African sisters Sarah-Jane and Amanda-Lea posed for the picture 'Cut from the same cloth'
Image source, Debbie Todd
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'Keep your hands to yourself' features Tilly who contracted meningitis as a baby
Image source, Debbie Todd
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Sadie, who had sepsis, features in the picture 'Keep your fingers crossed'
Image source, Debbie Todd
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'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder' features Lewis, who has a prosthetic eye
Image source, Debbie Todd
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Jono, who has Treacher-Collins syndrome, is the subject of 'A face only a mother could love'

Debbie's book, The Meaning of Being Different, is due to be published on 28 August and can be found on Kickstarter.

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