Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015)
Mary Ellen Mark was a highly esteemed and accredited photographer with a specific interest in capturing 1960s counterculture. Known for photographing street life, Mary’s intimate images give light to a diversity of outcast individuals, allowing them to tell their stories. Mary was known to have close relationships with her subjects; this comes through in her photographs, which are often personal and compassionate. Mary specialised in black and white photography.
Mary began taking photographs at eight years old. After graduating in Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania she travelled extensively, photographing a variety of world cultures. Her work has been displayed in galleries all around the world and she has published over twenty books. Her most important works include photographs of street kids in Seattle. Notably, her series Streetwise included Tiny, a 13-year-old girl whose life Mary documented and photographed for 32 years. This work was later made into a film by Mary’s husband.
Beyond this, Mary is known for her peculiar photographs of circuses and street sex workers in India. She was also intrigued by mental illness and spent 6 weeks on a women’s ward in Oregon State Hospital, photographing the most vulnerable and unseen moments of women’s lives. Mary’s photographs of social commentary have been extremely impactful, demonstrating the significance of her legacy.
By Beatrice Zanca