The Her-Story of Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir, Pt. 1


Episode 94 features Icelandic visual artist Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir. Is there such a thing as “admiration at first sight” that is similar in its nature to the whole “love at first sight” thing? I have to assume there is… and that is what my relationship with Rebekka is rooted in. I’m excited that she becomes the first guest of my newest series: “Who Tells Your Story?”

The year was 2005. I was dating my now wife. I was working at my old job that had me traveling around the world… quite a lot. I wish I could, but I can’t recall what originally brought me to search up some type of photograph and led my internet search into a website called Flickr. To give perspective, this is 4 years before Instagram. Facebook was only available to college students at this time. Nobody was using the words “social media” in a meaningful way yet. 

As I wandered around photos on Flickr, something caught my eye and lassoed my imagination. It was what seemed to be a long exposure shot (one of a few she posted around that time) that made it look like there were two of her laying down. 

“… I don’t even remember how I got the idea of tossing up this apple and catching it in midair…” That was how Rebekka described this photograph that ended up being one of the handful of catalysts for her photography getting noticed far and wide. 

When we talked about the older photos from her Flickr page, Rebekka talked about how exciting that time was for her. She said that she was taking photos every day and experimenting and having so much fun with this new art form for her. 

I reminded Rebekka about how I paid homage to her once or twice in my 365 project on Flickr. Here is an example of that from one of her popular multiplicity, or clone, images. 

“Iceland was basically in the ‘Dark Ages’ until around World War II, basically…” Rebekka really dug deep for her memories of family members in her past beyond her own parents. She briefly talked about how rough life would have been for her grandparents in old-world Iceland. I got a little schooling in some of the history of Iceland that I had totally not been aware of previously. 

“My Mom is just really bad-ass.” What Rebekka shared about her Mom absolutely falls in line with that sentence. 

Rebekka touched a little bit on what the effect can be on a child when they are told “you are special,” when it comes to scholastics and things of that nature. 

“As soon as I realized what I had when I was in Florida” as opposed to her life when she returned to Iceland as a pre-teen, gave Rebekka a significant shock to her psyche and moved her into depression at a young age. She really retreated during those school days.

Having a sketchbook around her constantly and honing her craft of drawing is what Rebekka will point at having saved her from becoming the outcast that may have been made fun of by others. She says she may still have been considered “the weirdo”, her work with art elevated her status a bit and gained some respect from her peers. She thinks it is what kept her going through times of being shy and miserable while in school. “I would sometimes go an entire day without opening my mouth”. 

Rebekka talks about seeing a documentary on women with autism. The documentary, which translated into English is “Seeing The Unseen”, can be seen in full on Vimeo and you can connect with them on Twitter @unseenautism

As Rebekka watched and listened to the women in the film discuss their lives, things really started to click into place for her. She remembered the many times she’d been asked: “Why can’t you just be normal?” and the answer was and is: “Because I’m not. I’m just not.”

This all struck a tremendous chord with me. There was an unavoidable resounding bell ringing in my head the first time we started looking at things regarding autism and early…

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