Mark, Mary Ellen

American (1940-)


The photographs of Mary Ellen Mark (1940) are characterized by a desire to get close to and discover the hidden stories of those along the fringes, the marginalized and often eccentric. Whether photographing lepers in Mother Teresa’s Calcutta colony, circus workers throughout India, runaway children in Seattle or odd-looking sets of twins, Mark strives to capture images that tell the stories of those whose voices are often unheard.

Mark studied painting and art history at U Penn, but went on to receive her masters in photojournalism. Following graduation, she traveled on a Fulbright scholarship and then settled in NYC. She was immediately drawn to the eclectic life happening on the streets and wasted no time snapping shots of ant-war demonstrations, women’s liberation workers, transvestites and beat poets. While other journalists were photographing the mainstream newsmakers, Mark followed a different crowd. Ever a smart businesswoman, Mark took on magazine and advertising assignments; in her career, she has worked for Life, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, as well as Barnes and Noble, Heineken, Coach and Nissan. Her marriage to filmmaker, Martin Bell, has also sparked a curiosity in the cinema, resulting in several shoots on movie sets, such as Apocalypse Now and Australia. Recently, following one of her inspirations, Eugene Smith, Mark has endeavored to move away from the photo essay format, challenging herself to take single shots that tell the same amount of story as a series.