Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Mary Ellen Mark
Mary Ellen Mark and Martin Bell - Look 3 2011 cropped.jpg
Mark with husband Martin Bell at the 2011 Look 3 photography conference
Born (1940-03-20)March 20, 1940
Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, US
Died May 25, 2015(2015-05-25) (aged 75)
New York City, New York, US
Nationality American
Known for Photography
Spouse(s) Martin Bell

Mary Ellen Mark (March 20, 1940 – May 25, 2015) was an American photographer known for her photojournalism[1][2] / documentary photography,[3][4] portraiture,[5] and advertising[6] photography. She photographed people who were "away from mainstream society and toward its more interesting, often troubled fringes".[7]

Mark had 18 collections of her work published, most notably Streetwise[2] and Ward 81.[1][8] Her work was exhibited at galleries and museums worldwide and widely published in Life, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, New York Times, and Vanity Fair.[1] She was a member of Magnum Photos between 1977 and 1981.[8][9] She received numerous accolades, including three Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the 2014 Lifetime Achievement in Photography Award from the George Eastman House[8] and the Outstanding Contribution Photography Award from the World Photography Organisation.[8]


Life and workEdit

Mark with Miami Beach residents. Circa 1979.

Mark was born and raised in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania in suburban Philadelphia,[8][10] and began photographing with a Box Brownie camera[6] at age nine.[excessive citations] She attended Cheltenham High School,[10] where she was head cheerleader and exhibited a knack for painting and drawing.[1] She received a BFA degree in painting and art history from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1962.[6] After graduating she worked briefly in the Philadelphia city planning department[6] before returning for a master's degree in photojournalism at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, which she received in 1964.[1] The following year, Mark received a Fulbright Scholarship to photograph in Turkey for a year,[1] from which she produced her first book, Passport (1974). While there, she also traveled to photograph England, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Spain.[7]

In 1966[10] or 1967,[7] she moved to New York City, where over the next several years she photographed demonstrations in opposition to the Vietnam War, the women's liberation movement, transvestite culture, and Times Square, developing a sensibility, according to one writer, "away from mainstream society and toward its more interesting, often troubled fringes".[7] Her photography went on to address such social issues as homelessness, loneliness, drug addiction, and prostitution. Children are a reoccurring subject throughout much of Mark's work.[11] She described her approach to her subjects: "I’ve always felt that children and teenagers are not "children," they’re small people. I look at them as little people and I either like them or I don’t like them. I also have an obsession with mental illness. And strange people who are outside the borders of society." Mark also said, "I’d rather pull up things from another culture that are universal, that we can all relate to….There are prostitutes all over the world. I try to show their way of life…"[12] and that "I feel an affinity for people who haven't had the best breaks in society. What I want to do more than anything is acknowledge their existence".[13] Mark was well known for establishing strong relationships with her subjects.[1] For Ward 81 (1979), she lived for six weeks with the patients in the women’s security ward of Oregon State Hospital and, for Falkland Road (1981), she spent three months befriending the prostitutes who worked on a single long street in Bombay.[1] Her project "Streets of the Lost" with writer Cheryl McCall, for Life,[14] produced her book Streetwise (1988) and was developed into the documentary film Streetwise,[8][12] directed by her husband Martin Bell and with a soundtrack by Tom Waits.

Mark was also a unit photographer on movie sets, shooting production stills of more than 100 movies including Arthur Penn's Alice's Restaurant (1969), Mike Nichols' Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971) and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) through to Baz Luhrmann's Australia (2008).[1][15] For Look magazine, she photographed Federico Fellini shooting Satyricon (1969).[1][7]

Mark worked with film,[6][16] using a wide range of cameras in various formats, from 35 mm, 120/220, 4×5-inch view camera, and a 20×24 Polaroid Land Camera,[1] primarily in black and white[6] using Kodak Tri-X film.[17]

She published 18 books of photographs; contributed to publications including Life, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, New York Times, and Vanity Fair;[1] and her photographs have been exhibited worldwide. Mark was transparent with the subjects of her photography about her intent to use what she saw in the world for her art, about which she has said "I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul."[citation needed]

Mark joined Magnum Photos in 1977 and left in 1981,[8][9] joining Archive Pictures and then in 1988 opened her own agency.[6] She served as a guest juror for photography call for entries at The Center for Fine Art Photography[18] and taught workshops at the International Center of Photography in New York, in Mexico[5] and at the Center for Photography at Woodstock.

She co-wrote, and was associate producer and still photographer for the feature film American Heart (1992), starring Jeff Bridges and Edward Furlong, and directed by Martin Bell.[8] It depicts a gruff ex-convict who struggles to get his life back on track.[6]

Mark died on May 25, 2015 in Manhattan, aged 75, of myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood illness caused by bone marrow failure.[2][3][8][19]




  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o O'Hagan, Sean (27 May 2015). "Mary Ellen Mark obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Saul, Heather (27 May 2015). "Mary Ellen Mark: Renowned documentary photographer dies aged 75". The Independent. London. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Grimes, William (26 May 2015). "Mary Ellen Mark, Photographer Who Documented Difficult Subjects, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Dobnik, Verena (26 May 2015). "Beloved Documentary Photographer Mary Ellen Mark Dies At 75". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Lafreniere, Steve (1 July 2008). "Mary Ellen Mark". Vice. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Mary Ellen Mark, photographer - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. London. 27 May 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Long, Andrew. "Brilliant Careers: Mary Ellen Mark", Salon, March 28, 2000
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Laurent, Olivier (May 26, 2015). "In Memoriam: Mary Ellen Mark (1940–2015)". Time. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Chronology, Magnum Photos (London: Thames & Hudson, 2008; ISBN 978-0-500-41094-3), not paginated.
  10. ^ a b c Naef, Weston Mary Ellen Mark: Exposure (Phaidon Press, 2006), Introduction. ISBN 0-7148-4626-0; ISBN 978-0-7148-4626-2
  11. ^ Crowder, Nicole (27 May 2015). "Celebrating the legacy of photographer Mary Ellen Mark, dead at age 75". Washington Post. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Frame, Allen "Mary Ellen Mark" BOMB Magazine Summer 1989, Retrieved July 27, 2011
  13. ^ Uncited but quoted in Long, "Brilliant Careers", Salon
  14. ^ Berman, Eliza (26 May 2015). "See Mary Ellen Mark's Most Memorable Photo Essay". Time. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Shattuck, Kathryn. "Another Camera on the Set", The New York Times, December 25, 2008, plus page 1 of 7 of online slide show
  16. ^ Hamilton, Peter (28 May 2015). "Remembering Mary Ellen Mark". British Journal of Photography. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  17. ^ Lovece, Frank. "The Real Life of Mary Ellen Mark" Take Great Pictures. October 1, 2011.
  18. ^ Archived July 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ Gilmour, Lucy (26 May 2015). "Remembering the Work of Mary Ellen Mark, Photography's Fierce Poet". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  20. ^ a b c "Mary Ellen Mark - Books", Mary Ellen Mark. Accessed 1 June 2015.
  21. ^ "Prom", Worldcat. Accessed 1 June 2015.
  22. ^ "The Lucie Awards – Mary Ellen Mark". Retrieved May 26, 2015. 

External linksEdit