Most documentary photography, especially from the marginal fringes of society where Mark has spent so much time, passes a judgement or offers an interpretation from an outside perspective. Isn't this extraordinary? Isn't this disgraceful or haunting or ironic or a freak show? At her best, Mary Ellen Mark takes us in deeper and closer, to a more personal, intimate level. Her compassion engages our compassion and we wonder what it's like to be this person.
Mary Ellen Mark, the great American photographer, had a career that encompassed some 21 books. And just before her death last May at 75, Aperture published Mark’s final two books, Mary Ellen Mark on the Portrait and the Moment and Tiny: Streetwise Revisited. The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach is now the world premiere venue for Mark’s last long-term project, an exhibition titled Tiny: Streetwise Revisited — Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark.
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Designer Yolanda Cuomo, who worked with Mark and Harris on the late photographer's last book, was honored when the photographer called her last year with the job offer. “Mary Ellen was so enthusiastic and giving throughout our collaboration,” Cuomo told TIME. “This was a tough subject, but her ever powerful, soulful eye made the project a joy. I am so happy she saw and blessed every detail of our book. She had a rage to live right to the end.”
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This great retrospective brings together 120 images taken over the past 35 years, and is the famous photographer’s first exhibition dedicated exclusively to her work on America. It includes a number of photographs which have never been exhibited before and some of her best work over the years, from 'Streetwise' to 'Beauty Pageants', from 'Rural Poverty' to 'Texas Rodeos', from 'The Damm Family' to 'Christian Bikers'. For the first time in Italy the exhibition will include 10 polaroids directly from Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York from the photographer’s most recent work, 'Twins'.
With her inimitable ability to make her subjects into living icons, Mary Ellen Mark was recently nominated most influential female photographer of all time by American Photo Magazine readers.
Her penetrating vision with its great capacity for empathy is revealed in photographs ranging for portraits taken over the years of a 'homeless' family living in their car and the devastating lives of women in psychiatric hospitals, to the gigolos of Miami, transvestites, Halloween and spring celebrations, theme parties and graduation ceremonies: an overview of society in the USA.
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She has published sixteen books including Passport (Lustrum Press, 1974), Ward 81 (Simon & Schuster, 1979), Falkland Road (Knopf, 1981), Mother Teresa’s Mission of Charity in Calcutta (Friends of Photography, 1985), The Photo Essay: Photographers at Work (A Smithsonian series), Streetwise (second printing, Aperture, 1992), Mary Ellen Mark: 25 Years (Bulfinch, 1991), Indian Circus (Chronicle, 1993 and Takarajimasha Inc., 1993), Portraits (Motta Fotografica, 1995 and Smithsonian, 1997), A Cry for Help (Simon & Schuster, 1996), Mary Ellen Mark: American Odyssey (Aperture, 1999), Mary Ellen Mark 55 (Phaidon, 2001), Photo Poche: Mary Ellen Mark (Nathan, 2002), Twins (Aperture, 2003), Exposure (Phaidon, 2005), Extraordinary Child (The National Museum of Iceland, 2007), Seen Behind the Scene (Phaidon, 2009). She also acted as the associate producer of the major motion picture, American Heart (1992), directed by Martin Bell.
Mary Ellen Mark: Celebrated Photographer Dies at 75 | …
“Mary Ellen lived hungrily, fully, and had this extraordinary will and determination,” said Melissa Harris of Aperture Foundation, which was working on Mark’s new book Tiny: Streetwise Revisited. “She wanted to work — she loved being a photographer. She was great with her subjects — working so intuitively — and was able to get at the essence of the people she was photographing, to tell their stories. It mattered to her to represent them faithfully and truly, and not just in the documentary visual sense, but distinguishing each individual for who he or she really was in the world. Her work is humane, all heart.”