Photographer With Down Syndrome's Viral TikTok Gets Over a Million Likes

This incredible globetrotting photographer with Down syndrome can now add TikToker to his resume.

Houston Vandergriff, better known as @downsandtowns on his social media platforms, quickly gained a huge fan base on TikTok over the weekend after using the app's latest trend to show off that, contrary to what narrow-minded doctors thought upon his birth, he has become an award-winning photographer and visited close to 30 countries.

The "Bongo Cha Cha Cha" audio, sung originally by Caterina Valente in 1960, is currently used by creators to show off how they exceeded an expectation, be it jokingly with old stuffed animals they held on to from infancy or proudly showing off an impressive accomplishment at a young age. Vandergriff used the audio clip and joined the trend with his viral video to show off his incredible photography skills at just 23 years old.

Vandergriff danced and stuck his tongue out to those in his life whose attitudes he summed up with the demeaning phrase he often heard: "That's so sad he'll never be able to do anything." Fans quickly got his video to over one million likes and expressed their amazement at his incredible photographic talent in the comments.

"That's amazing! I hope I get to achieve my dreams like that someday," one wrote. "Doctors really need to change their language when discussing disabilities, b/c they clearly don't know what a person is capable of! Good for you," another added.

According to his website, Vandergriff is a Tennessee native who earned his photography certification at the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville, in 2019 and is currently working toward his advanced photography certification. His work has been showcased at the Disability Resource Center in Knoxville and the Inspiration Gallery in Perth, Scotland, and even in Breaking Ground Magazine.


Reply to @hoot.loves.anime these are some of the countries Houston has photographed! #PepsiApplePieChallenge #downsyndrome #travelphotography

♬ FEEL THE GROOVE - Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

Vandergriff has visited dozens of countries, among them, Iceland, which has nearly eradicated Down syndrome with its prenatal screening and close to 100 percent abortion rate for fetuses that test positive. His website noted that he is passionate about disability awareness and hopes "to use his photography to inspire and educate."

Especially as people with Down syndrome continue to face oppression—just last week a little girl was denied entrance to an aquarium because she was unable to keep her face mask on—Vandergriff emphasized his pride to be an influential force on several disability advocate platforms. His website noted that he serves on the nonprofit Beloved, Empowering Women and is a board member of the Sunshine Ambassador dance troop for people with special needs.

By popular demand, Vandergriff then posted a video highlighting some of his best work, which included stunning landscapes, posed flamingos and incredible waterfalls. He even confirmed on his Instagram that his website will soon be opening a printshop for those interested in purchasing his work.

Houston Vandergriff's travel photography career has taken off despite his being only 23 years old. Darren Heath/Getty Images