Emmy loves meeting new people, says German photographer Mario Wezel of the five-year-old girl whom he documented every other day throughout her kindergarden school year. From his time with her, the photographer discovered that Emmy has the rare ability of taking in the world slowly, of becoming absorbed in fully her present surroundings, without making prejudgements or assumptions. Emmy also happens to have been born with Down syndrome.
Emmy lives with mother, father, and little brother Kristian in the Denmark countryside, close to Aarhus, where Wezel resided for a time. In Denmark, prenatal screening tests have been conducted since 2004 to estimate the chances of any one child being born with Down syndrome. If expectant Danish parents face a probability more of than 0.0033 percent, they are urged to undergo more invasive tests. When Martin and Karina were pregnant with Emmy, their prenatal screening tests specified that they had a one in eight hundred—or 0.00125 percent— chance of having a child with Down syndrome.
Wezel embarked on One in Eight Hundred after studying a local community of facilities devoted to issues surrounding Down syndrome. He reached out to Martin and Karina, who welcomed him into their home over coffee. They spoke frankly, and the parents agreed to allow the photographer intimate access to the daily goings on of their household.
Emmy took immediately to Wezel, as she did with most new friends. Family life with Emmy unfolded candidly before his camera, and at times, he admits that he faltered; some moments seemed too precious to be shared. His impulse to understand Emmy and her life ultimately outweighed his reservations. Emmy’s parents had, at that time, enrolled her in her local school; she had friends over for playdates. After school, she baked cookies with her parents and brother.
Emmy’s life has changed since Wezel first was introduced to her; she now attends a public school some eighteen miles from her home. Other parents find it difficult to make the long trek required to arrange playtime, but Martin and Karina make a point of sitting down with Emmy to do her homework. The photographer has grown attached to the family and to their daughter, and he tries to make the trip as often as he can. Each time he returns, he finds Emmy has grown.
All images © Mario Wezel