About the Photographer
Mark, Mary Ellen
American, b. 1940
Mary Ellen Mark is one of very few contemporary photographers who manage to work in the realms of art, social documentary and photo-journalism without compromising the integrity of any of them or herself. For the past 35 years, in 14 books and hundreds of media publications, she has recorded prostitutes, rodeos, circuses, street children, mental health facilities, film production--the list is long and varied. Knowing full well that photographing people who are radically different from the photographer can turn exploitive, she has developed a reputation for humanitarian concern. As she says, "In most cases, if I didn't tell their story, nobody would." She is, in fact, seriously interested in "their stories" and uses photography as an instrument for expanding our understanding of her concerns, not an exclusive formal end in itself. The socially responsible photographer has exactly the same task with subject as with audience: to engage without offending and to communicate completely without becoming neutral.
Educated at the University of Pennsylvania (BFA, 1962 and MA, 1964), Mary Ellen Mark has also received honorary degrees from Kenyon College, Ohio; Columbia College Chicago; the Center for Creative Studies, Detroit; and the University of Pennsylvania. Her works have been widely exhibited, most recently at the Manchester Art Gallery; the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art; and the Museum of Contemporary Photography. In addition, Mark's photographs are held in the permanent collections of the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; the California Museum of Photography, Riverside; and the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland, among many others. Mark has received three National Endowment for the Arts grants and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship.