Carlos pursues his passions

22 year old athlete Carlos Biggemann received his first camera five years ago – and it empowered him to share his talents with Special Olympics, volunteering for the Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games.

An Aspiring Talent

Shooting the action: One of Carlos Biggemann's pictures for the Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games.
(Credit: Carlos Biggemann) 

Carlos Biggemann wielded his Canon EOS D5 Mark III and zoom lens with ease. He moved along the basketball court sidelines swiftly, following the action to frame his pictures.  After a few shots, he quietly reviewed his work, occasionally breaking into a big satisfied smile, when he knows he’s captured a good picture.
Born in Bolivia, Carlos’ family moved about, due to his father Sergio’s work in education. The Biggemann family spent stints in Germany, Sydney, and for the most part of the last decade, Dunedin in New Zealand. Carlos’ family made it a point to stay connected to Special Olympics, each time they moved to a new country. During Carlos’ formative years, he joined Special Olympics Australia, swimming for the Upper North Shore chapter. When his family moved to New Zealand, Carlos also joined Special Olympics and competed in the New Zealand National Games. He had his first taste of international competition in 2010, at the Downs Syndrome International Swimming Organisation Championships in Taipei, winning three medals in bronze, silver and gold.

A Budding Interest

Contributing his talents: Carlos volunteered his photography skills for the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games, shooting three days of sporting action.

So how did Carlos get started in photography? Explains Sergio: “Carlos has always been interested in special effects. We suggested he try out photography first, as a first step.” Armed with his first point and shoot camera at 19 years old, Carlos started experimenting with photography techniques. This interest led to a one year course at the Aoraki Polytechnic, where he earned his Certificate in Digital Photography last year. Carlos learnt skills on how to take stunning pictures, including the traditional darkroom process, shooting technique and digital software editing.

Commitment and Effort

One of Carlos' exhibition work: Twilight at the Otago Peninsula.
(Credit: Carlos Biggemann)  

To receive this certificate, Carlos had to complete eight requisite papers. Notes his former teacher Karola Gaede: “Each paper required hard work and dedication, which Carlos was ready to put in at all times. Although he was the only person with special needs in the group, he was not given significant additional support, neither allowed to have a free ride. His certificate has been well earned, through hard work.”

For his course project, Carlos shot a series of New Zealand landscapes, and selected 50 photos for an exhibition in Bolivia, “to show my family and friends what it’s like to live in New Zealand.” Before the exhibition opened, 25 of his works were already sold, and the event generated local media interest, including an interview with CNN. Since then, Carlos has also volunteered his photography skills for Special Olympics New Zealand, and when he heard the Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games was looking for photography volunteers in Newcastle, he signed up and did three days’ work, shooting competitions in Athletics, Basketball and Swimming.

A Significant Achievement

Carlos (left) receiving his award from the New Zealand Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae. 

For his accomplishments in swimming and photography, Carlos was presented with the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association national achievement award in 2013, joining two other recipients in the Government House in Wellington. Says Sergio: “It is quite remarkable, if you think of the general low expectations some people have of people with Down Syndrome. His efforts have been significant. We have always encouraged Carlos to try harder, and he’s always prepared to work hard to achieve his dreams.”
As for his next steps, Carlos is currently looking at a few opportunities, and is driven to pursue his options: “I am looking for a job. I am also keen to go to Wellington - there is a good university there for film and media studies.”