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Mary Ellen Mark: People who make photography ageless



As for many of you, I also have my freedom taken by the panicking and complicated coronavirus crisis. Since I’m not able to go out too much for my photographic expeditions I realized that I should come up with something useful I could share in the blog. And the light that popped up in my brain was to search some good files and content in the internet about topics regarding photography. I came across lots of useful information and especially inspiring stuff. Before being a business, photography is a vast field, diverse in purposes, containing distinct points of view and philosophies. Photography is honorable in having throughout its existence names that contributed so much to it and helped this utility reach a huge audience, making many admirers. Therefore, considering myself as a serious supporter of photography as a way to humanize our world I decided to share here posts showing people, works and facts that represent the magnificence of this modern way of art. Our first post on this sequence brings a little of the life, importance and works of the many awards winning photographer Mary Ellen Mark. Ellen Mark is one of the greatest names of documentary photography during the second half of 20th Century. She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 20th, 1940. She graduated from university with a BFA in Art and Design but still in childhood, when she had her first experience with a camera she already realized that photography was her path. Probably her first famous work was her expedition to photograph Turkey as her Fulbright Scholarship. We may say that the part of her work that would make her name known in the world of photography had its beginning when she joined the production of Kelsey’s film One flew over the cuckoo’s nest (1971) where she worked as photographer in the set of the film. This movie was produced in partnership with the Oregon State Hospital where it was shot and this proximity with the administration of the institution would be the gateway for Mark to do one of her most popular works. Later after the production of the movie, Mark and her partner Lauren Jacobs gained access to the Ward 81, sector of the hospital where were treated mentally ill women. Mark and Jacobs lived inside Ward 81 for 36 days and had an opportunity to see intimately the routine of those patients. Mark in special, only porting 35 mm cameras shot more than 200 rolls of film. This project led to the publishing of the book named Ward 81, and although it follows an investigative principle such as an usual good documentary photography project, still Mark stated that this work wasn’t supposed to act as a documenting project, neither to tell a story, instead it had a pure artistic purpose and the photos were exposed in many museums and galleries and sold as actual artworks, different from the end that documentary photography used to have. And this is where her name stands. Mary Ellen Mark is seen as one of the great photographers that changed drastically the concepts of this genre, making it an object of appreciation, where the photos carry their own value regardless the story it hides behind. Mark belongs to the generation of documentary photographers that kept digging ideas in the hard reality faced by humanity in different parts of the world and attracted more eyes of empathy to the problems using less objectivity. That is to say, since then documentary photography has gone beyond magazines, beyond only informing the populations about our problems, it has attracted attention by its beauty, by its artistic value, leaving on the viewer the interpretation of what one sees. In her long career she captured many iconic images, mostly recognized by the emotional and human expression contained in them.


It’s important to mention that Mark kept contact with many of her subjects, closely registering the phases of their lives, proving her sensibility to their dilemmas. Tiny, back in the 1970’s, was a 13 years old prostitute living among the street children of Seattle. She was one of the people photographed for the project named “Streets of The Lost”. Tiny is the girl featuring in one of the most important photos Mark took in her career, a very simple portrait where the girl stands in a black sleeveless dress and a small hat, holding her forearms, staring at the camera without a smile. The same Tiny was many years later subject to photos by Mark, this time showing her family of ten kids and husband, after overcoming drug addiction. Besides Tiny, many other people were photographed by Mark over time. Mark, in her brilliant life, received three times the award for National Endowment for the Arts (1977, 1980, 1990), one Cornell Capa Award in 2001 and had her images published in magazines such as Life, The New Yorker and Paris Match. She was invited to join the Magnum Photo Agency in 1977 after her project Ward 81 . The founders of Magnum were big influencers in Mark’s career. She died in New York City, on May 25th, 2015.



Sources:

https://www.britannica.com › Mary-...Mary Ellen Mark | American photojournalist | Britannica

https:// www.theguardian.com › mayMary Ellen Mark's legendary photographs – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian

https://www.academia.edu › Mary_...(PDF) Mary Ellen Mark's "Ward 81": Art at the Expense of Social Documentary ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w2aaO9WYh4 Mary Ellen Mark: There is nothing more extraordinary than reality

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCtigXTM8EQ From the archives: The photographs of Mary Ellen Mark

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2Q9hL73Di8 When You're Not a Clone, It Shows: Mary Ellen Mark

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBAn3w30DZ4 Profoto Presents Iconic Mary Ellen Mark

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l137gN6KaE Tiny Revisited - Mary Ellen Mark


http://www.maryellenmark.com/

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