September 2, 2007 - National Museum of Iceland - Presents Extraordinary Child
September 2, 2007

Presents Extraordinary Child

Extraordinary Child
Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark

September 9th 2007 –
January 27th 2008

National Museum of Iceland
Suourgata 41 – 101 Reykjavík

On September the 9th the exhibition Extraordinary Child will open at the National Museum of Iceland. The exhibition consists of 70 photographs by the renowned photographer Mary Ellen Mark and a documentary film by the Oscar nominated director Martin Bell. During the last two years they have been working on this project that focuses on the lives of disabled children in Iceland.

Mary Ellen Mark is known for taking photographs that reflect reality. Amongst her best-known projects are photographs of the lives of homeless youths in Seattle, followed by the documentary film Streetwise by Martin Bell, the work performed at Mother Teresa’s charity mission in Calcutta, brothels in Bombay, and the Indian Circus.

The National Museum of Iceland places emphasis on reflecting the diverse facets of Icelands history and society. An important part of the museum’s work is to offer exhibitions that move the spectator and cause him or her to reflect on the diversity of human experience and our circumstances in the present, as well as in the past. Contemporary documentation of our culture is of vital importance in that work.

Mary Ellen Mark’s photographs in the exhibition Extraordinary Child were taken at Öskjuhlíoarskóli and Safamyrarskóli schools and the Lyngás centre for the disabled, in the fall and winter of 2006-2007. The Öskjuhlíoarskóli school is mostly for higher functioning children, while the Safamyrarskóli school is for more severely affected children. Mary Ellen got the change to follow the children to the different classes the schools offer, ranging from music to swimming. Mary Ellen was deeply affected by the atmosphere in the schools and she describes her experience during the seven weeks she spent with these extraordinary children as a time of enlightenment and hope.

The film by Martin Bell is titled Alexander: Extraordinary Child, focusing on Alexander Vioar Pálsson a severely disabled boy and his relationship with his parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, fellow students at Öskjuhlíoarskóli and even his dog; Rocky. The film offers a personal and intimate view of Alexander’s daily life.

The exhibition also sheds light on the children’s school environment through the photographs of Ívar Brynjólfsson, a photographer for the National Museum. Selected artwork by the school’s pupils is also on display, chosen by Ingibjörg Jóhannsdóttir, principal of the Reykjavík School of Visual Art.

A bilingual, English and Icelandic, book will be produced in connection with the exhibition. All the photographs will be included along with an essay by journalist and photographer Einar Falur Ingólfsson about the lives of the children and the work of photographer Mary Ellen Mark. Mary Ellen Mark has written an introduction and foreword is written by Margrét Hallgrímsdóttir director of the National Museum.

This exhibition and film allow us to look into the eyes of the children and their circumstances with the help of the lens. At the same time we are also directing our gaze at our own perceptions and feelings. In this exhibition we see the reality of disabled children in our contemporary society. We sense how extraordinary these children, like all children, are.

Mary Ellen Mark says that in her life as a photographer it is very rare to be given such a remarkable opportunity to make photographs. She continues “Extraordinary Child is the kind of project that brought me to photography. I hope that after seeing the film and book, the audience will have a more intimate way of seeing children with disabilities because they are truly extraordinary.”

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