Extraordinary Child

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About the Project

In the summer of 2005, I was asked to produce five photographic portfolios for the Morgunbladid Newspaper.  One of the projects I requested to photograph was a school for disabled children in Reykjavik.  The newspaper arranged for me to spend a day at Öskjuhlíðarskóli.  It was an unforgettable day.  I immediately fell in love with the children as I followed them through their daily activities, which included a swimming class.  It was in that swimming class that I met one young boy that especially won my heart.  This boy walked with the aid of a walker with unimaginable effort and was fearless in the water. He used precious few words but had a strong presence.  I took many photographs of him swimming.  On the bus ride back to school, he sat in front of me and kept leaning around his seat to make sure I was still there.  His name: Alexander.

In my life as a photographer it is very rare to be given such a remarkable opportunity to make photographs.  “Extraordinary Child” is the kind of project that brought me to photography.  I hope that after seeing the exhibition, the book and the film, the audience will have a more intimate way of viewing children with disabilities because they are truly extraordinary.  To paraphrase Alexander’s mother, Steinunn, “A lot of people have never dealt with disability before. For those people who have not experienced it we hope we can bring them into that world because you learn so much about yourself by entering their world.” – Mary Ellen Mark

To read Mark’s entire essay, download the PDF.

About the Photograher

MARY ELLEN MARK has achieved worldwide visibility through her numerous books, exhibitions and editorial magazine work. She has published photo-essays and portraits in such publications as LIFE, New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair. For over four decades, she has traveled extensively to make pictures that reflect a high degree of humanism. Today, she is recognized as one of our most respected and influential photographers. Her images of our world’s diverse cultures have become landmarks in the field of documentary photography. Her portrayals of Mother Teresa, Indian circuses, and brothels in Bombay were the product of many years of work in India. A photo essay on runaway children in Seattle became the basis of the academy award nominated film STREETWISE, directed and photographed by her husband, Martin Bell.

To read more about this project, visit:http://www.maryellenmark.com/frames/exchild.html

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