Rites of Passage is a collaboration between Fiona Bailey and Fiona Yaron-Field, both photographers and mothers whose daughters have Down’s syndrome. Their daughters, Billie-Jo and Ophir attended Derwen College, a learning and living environment for young people with learning disabilities.
The project aims to celebrate the unique individuality of the students as they move into adult life. Bailey and Yaron-Field allowed the students to take control of their prom photo by giving them the freedom to pose how they wished, and to choose the moment their picture was taken using a remote control.
This series also focuses on a difficult reality of leaving school – which may resonate with many young people at a time of increased insecurity and uncertainty – the question, what next?
“Louis is my boyfriend. I love him so much. He’s handsome in his bow tie, a real gentleman and I look beautiful and proud.
“He is very tall and I’m short! We look like a good couple, really cool and romantic. He is still in college and I’m back at home, I miss him so much. So, so much.
“We were just friends, then we got to know each other more and more, then we became boyfriend and girlfriend. I want him in my life, but he’s going to live in Cardiff and I live in London, so I’ll miss him a lot. I know I can always visit him…. at some point.”
“This picture is so lovely. Oh it makes me cry, it brings back happy memories.”
“I was looking at Tom thinking he’s ‘oh lovely’, look how he’s holding my hand. He was telling me how lovely I looked and I said ‘you’re so handsome’.
“The Prom was brilliant, we had a band come in and I danced with Tom. There were these fantastic cars, so my friend Ruby and I sat in a sports car and pretended to drive.
“Afterwards, Tom and I went for a nice walk, Tom and I speak a lot still but he lives a long way away. He is working in a hospital and living at home. We’re going to meet for a day out in the summer.”
“In the photo I look like I’m a fun outgoing person and I am. I also like horse-riding and singing.
“I’ve been at college a long time, nearly five years, but I’m going to leave in July. I’ve really enjoyed my time here and I’m trying not to think about leaving.
“When I leave I’ll first live at home, hopefully get a job in a small cafe. Maybe one day I’d like to get married but that won’t happen for a long time. You’ve got to be settled, happy and know what you want.
“I don’t want to live in the country – I want to live in a town where there are shops and parks. I want to live with friends, because friends are so important. Unfortunately, I don’t have any friends in my area, and it’s hard to keep up with friends who have left college.
“I’m not worried, I’ll think about leaving later, I’m taking each day as it comes.”
“Leaving [Derwen College] makes me feel both pleased and sad, that’s natural isn’t it?
“I’ll miss playing for the football team and I’ll miss the staff, especially Paul. I always have a bit of banter about Stoke City with him.
“When I leave I’m looking forward to making new friends, a place of my own, doing some work. As far as work’s concerned, I’ll do some volunteering work in gardening. I don’t get paid straight away, it’s OK in a way as it might lead to paid work. That’s true isn’t it?
“I’d like a nice house with people my age who have an interest in sport so we can have a conversation about that.
“I dream in the future to have my own gardening company, I could make some money in that. So I’m getting more experience, that’s the volunteering thing, then I’ll look at setting the company up.”
“I enjoyed the prom because I was really happy with my friends, dancing with them and it was amazing.”
All photos copyright: Fiona Bailey / Fiona Yaron-Field