The unique photography project of Finnish artist and social educator Miina Savolainen has extended its stay in Ottawa until September 2nd and the artist will be present for the last three days of the exhibit.
Since the end of May, The Loveliest Girl in the World has been impressing its Canadian audience. The visitor’s book at the Sussex Gallery is quickly filling up with heartfelt comments, just like the exhibit’s Facebook page.
So far thousands of visitors have taken in the exhibit, which had its North American opening on May 27th and will continue to Washington D.C. to open on October 19 at the gallery of the Embassy of Finland.
The exhibit was also a part of the international Women’s Worlds 2011 Conference held in Ottawa July 3-7 and the site of the Nordic reception in honour of the Conference.
Miina Savolainen was working at the Hyvönen’s children’s home in Helsinki in 1998, when the idea of phototherapy came to her. Most children come to be at the home as a result of their parents’ inability to care for them to a degree requiring the intervention of social services. Among the many challenging issues they have to deal with, including sadness over losing the love and care of their parents, they suffer from low self-esteem. The photos are a tool of empowerment and healing.
When someone has been hurt and let down by words, verbal communication is not enough, but a dialogue created by the image and the act of looking at it can be a powerful instrument of self-discovery. Friends and family admit also seeing the girls differently as they are shown the photos. The exhibit has a companion book, giving the girls a wider audience still. With sales over 20 000 copies, The Loveliest Girl in the World – art book is one of the most successful photography books of all time in Finland.
The project has lead to method of empowering photography, developed by Miina Savolainen. It has been in use in therapy, teaching, and the workplace for over ten years in Finland. The method reverses the balance of power between the photographer and the subject who is in charge of the process, including viewing the end result. It does not necessarily involve discussion about the finished photographs, either. The age old saying - perhaps as old as photography itself- of a picture being worth a thousand words, just gives those words so much more weight in the context of empowering photography.
Miina Savolainen will be at the Sussex Gallery from 4 pm until 7 pm on Wednesday, August 31, and from noon until 8 pm on both Thursday and Friday, September 1 – 2.
Comments from the guestbook of the Loveliest Girl in the World Exhibit:
"I feel like you have captured a picture that see´s into these girls souls
and I am humbled by just looking at them. I am inspired and reminded of just
how important INNER beauty is. Thank You."
"O, the World we live in, so full of beauty, so full of pain. Thank you for
recognizing both and doing awareness."
"This exhibit makes me believe that someday, somehow, someone will take a picture
of me that I will look at and love. Thank you for the art and the love
you have given the young women and world."