Mary Ellen Mark

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Mary Ellen Mark
Mary-ellen-mark-2 (cropped).jpg
Born(1940-03-20)March 20, 1940
DiedMay 25, 2015(2015-05-25) (aged 75)
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, documentary photography, portraiture, and advertising photography. She photographed people who were "away from mainstream society and toward its more interesting, often troubled fringes". [1]

Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography by complying with a rigid ethical framework which demands that the work be both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. Photojournalists create pictures that contribute to the news media, and help communities connect with one other. Photojournalists must be well informed and knowledgeable about events happening right outside their door. They deliver news in a creative format that is not only informative, but also entertaining.

Documentary photography usually refers to a popular form of photography used to chronicle events or environments both significant and relevant to history and historical events as well as everyday life. It is typically covered in professional photojournalism, or real life reportage, but it may also be an amateur, artistic, or academic pursuit.


Mark had 18 collections of her work published, most notably Streetwise and Ward 81. [2] 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 . She was a member of Magnum Photos between 1977 and 1981. 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 [2] and the Outstanding Contribution Photography Award from the World Photography Organisation.

<i>Life</i> (magazine) American magazine

Life was an American magazine published weekly until 1972, as an intermittent "special" until 1978, and as a monthly from 1978 to 2000. During its golden age from 1936 to 1972, Life was a wide-ranging weekly general interest magazine known for the quality of its photography.

<i>Rolling Stone</i> American magazine focusing on popular culture, based in New York City

Rolling Stone is an American monthly magazine that focuses on popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California in 1967 by Jann Wenner, who is still the magazine's publisher, and the music critic Ralph J. Gleason. It was first known for its musical coverage and for political reporting by Hunter S. Thompson. In the 1990s, the magazine shifted focus to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music. In recent years, it has resumed its traditional mix of content.

<i>The New Yorker</i> Magazine on politics, social issues, art, humor, and culture, based in New York City

The New Yorker is an American magazine featuring journalism, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons, and poetry. Started as a weekly in 1925, the magazine is now published 47 times annually, with five of these issues covering two-week spans. Although its reviews and events listings often focus on the cultural life of New York City, The New Yorker has a wide audience outside New York and is read internationally. It is well known for its illustrated and often topical covers, its commentaries on popular culture and eccentric Americana, its attention to modern fiction by the inclusion of short stories and literary reviews, its rigorous fact checking and copy editing, its journalism on politics and social issues, and its single-panel cartoons sprinkled throughout each issue.

Life and work

Mark was born and raised in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. [3] [4] and began photographing with a Box Brownie camera [5] at age nine. She attended Cheltenham High School, [4] where she was head cheerleader and exhibited a knack for painting and drawing. [3] She received a BFA degree in painting and art history from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1962. [5] After graduating she worked briefly in the Philadelphia city planning department [5] 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. [3] The following year, Mark received a Fulbright Scholarship to photograph in Turkey for a year, [3] from which she produced her first book, Passport (1974). While there, she also traveled to photograph England, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Spain. [1]

Elkins Park, Pennsylvania Place in Pennsylvania, United States

Elkins Park is an unincorporated community in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is split between Cheltenham and Abington Townships in the suburbs, which it borders along Cheltenham Avenue roughly 6 miles (9.7 km) from downtown. An affluent community, it is the home of Lynnewood Hall, a 110-room, derelict Gilded Age mansion.

Brownie (camera)

The Brownie was a long-running popular series of simple and inexpensive cameras made by Eastman Kodak. Introduced in 1900, it introduced the snapshot to the masses. It was a basic cardboard box camera with a simple meniscus lens that took 2 1/4-inch square pictures on 117 roll film. It was conceived and marketed for sales of Kodak roll films. Because of its simple controls and initial price of $1 along with the low price of Kodak roll film and processing, The Brownie camera surpassed its marketing goal.

Cheltenham High School

Cheltenham High School is a public high school in the Wyncote neighborhood of Cheltenham Township, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, located half a mile from the border of the City of Philadelphia and 6 miles from Center City. Serving grades 9 through 12, Cheltenham is the senior high school in the School District of Cheltenham Township. It is preceded by Cedarbrook Middle School, Elkins Park Middle School, and four elementary schools: Cheltenham Elementary, Wyncote Elementary, Myers Elementary and Glenside Elementary.

In 1966 [4] or 1967, [1] 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". [1] 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. [6] 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…" [7] 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". [8] Mark was well known for establishing strong relationships with her subjects. [3] 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. [3] Her project "Streets of the Lost" with writer Cheryl McCall, for Life , [9] produced her book Streetwise (1988) and was developed into the documentary film Streetwise , [2] [7] directed by her husband Martin Bell and with a soundtrack by Tom Waits.

Opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War

Opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War began with demonstrations in 1964 against the escalating role of the U.S. military in the Vietnam War and grew into a broad social movement over the ensuing several years. This movement informed and helped shape the vigorous and polarizing debate, primarily in the United States, during the second half of the 1960s and early 1970s on how to end the war.

The women's liberation movement (WLM) was a political alignment of women and feminist intellectualism that emerged in the late 1960s and continued into the 1980s primarily in the industrialized nations of the Western world, which affected great change throughout the world. The WLM branch of radical feminism, based in contemporary philosophy, comprised women of racially- and culturally-diverse backgrounds who proposed that economic, psychological, and social freedom were necessary for women to progress from being second-class citizens in their societies.

Transvestism practice of dressing in a manner traditionally associated with the opposite sex

Transvestism is the practice of dressing and acting in a style or manner traditionally associated with the opposite sex. In some cultures, transvestism is practiced for religious, traditional, or ceremonial reasons. The term is rarely applied to women.

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). [3] [10] For Look magazine, she photographed Federico Fellini shooting Satyricon (1969). [3] [1]

Unit still photographer person who takes photographs to document activity on a film set

A unit still photographer, or simply still photographer, is a person who creates film stills, still photographic images specifically intended for use in the marketing and publicity of feature films in the motion picture industry and network television productions. Besides creating photographs for the promotion of a film, the still photographer contributes daily to the filming process by creating set stills. With these, the photographer is careful to record all details of cast wardrobe, set appearance and background.

Arthur Penn American producer and director

Arthur Hiller Penn was an American director and producer of film, television and theater. Penn directed critically acclaimed films throughout the 1960s such as the drama The Chase (1966), the biographical crime film Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and the comedy Alice's Restaurant (1969). He also got attention for his revisionist Western Little Big Man (1970).

<i>Alices Restaurant</i> (film) 1969 film by Arthur Penn

Alice's Restaurant is a 1969 American comedy film directed by Arthur Penn. It is an adaptation of the 1967 folk song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree", originally written and sung by Arlo Guthrie. The film stars Guthrie as himself, with Pat Quinn as Alice Brock and James Broderick as Ray Brock. Penn, who resided in the story's setting of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, co-wrote the story with Venable Herndon in 1967 after hearing the song, shortly after directing Bonnie & Clyde.

Mark worked with film, [5] [11] 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, [3] primarily in black and white [5] using Kodak Tri-X film. [12]

135 film Photographic film format

135 is photographic film in a film format used for still photography. It is a cartridge film with a film gauge of 35 mm (1.4 in), typically used for hand-held photography in 35 mm film cameras. Its engineering standard for the film is controlled by ISO 1007.

120 film medium format roll film

120 is a popular film format for still photography introduced by Kodak for their Brownie No. 2 in 1901. It was originally intended for amateur photography but was later superseded in this role by 135 film. 120 film and its close relative, 220 film, survive to this day as the only medium format films that are readily available to both professionals and amateur enthusiasts. As of December 2018 all production of 220 film has stopped/paused worldwide. The only remaining stocks are from the last Fujifilm production run (2018) and they are mostly found in Japan.

Land Camera

The Land Camera is a model of self-developing film camera manufactured by Polaroid between 1948 and 1983. It is named after their inventor, Edwin Land, who developed a process for self-developing photography between 1943 to 1947. After Edwin Land's retirement from Polaroid, the name 'Land' was dropped from the camera name. The first commercially available model was the Model 95, which produced sepia-colored prints in about 1 minute. It was first sold to the public on November 26, 1948.

She published 18 books of photographs; contributed to publications including Life , Rolling Stone , The New Yorker , New York Times , and Vanity Fair ; [3] 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, [2] [13] joining Archive Pictures and then in 1988 opened her own agency. [5] She served as a guest juror for photography call for entries at The Center for Fine Art Photography [14] and taught workshops at the International Center of Photography in New York, in Mexico [15] 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. [2] It depicts a gruff ex-convict who struggles to get his life back on track. [5]

Mark died on May 25, 2015 in Manhattan, aged 75, of myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood illness caused by bone marrow failure. [2] [16] [17] [18]


Recognition and awards

Grants and fellowships

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  8. Uncited but quoted in Long, "Brilliant Careers", Salon
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  10. Shattuck, Kathryn. "Another Camera on the Set", The New York Times , December 25, 2008, plus page 1 of 7 of online slide show
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  13. Chronology, Magnum Photos (London: Thames & Hudson, 2008; ISBN   978-0-500-41094-3), not paginated.
  14. Archived July 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
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  20. "Prom", Worldcat. Accessed 1 June 2015.
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