"Mary Ellen Mark, an artist known for her incredible humanist photography, passed away Monday in New York City. A rep confirmed the news Tuesday morning. She was 75.
"Mark was born (March 20, 1940) and raised in Elkins Park. She graduated from Cheltenham High School (“I was head cheerleader,” she told the Inquirer’s Stephen Rea in 2008). In 1962, she received a bachelor of fine arts in art history and painting from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master's in photojournalism in 1964 from Penn’s Annenberg School of Communication. She would return to the local institution to receive honorary doctorates in fine arts in 1992 and 1994.
"Mark said she got her big break while working for a Penn alumni magazine. On assignment at Rosemont College, she met Pat Carbine, then managing editor of Look, who later took her pitch to photograph London drug clinics.
"'From the very first moment I took pictures [on the streets of Philadelphia], I loved it,' Mark told the Inquirer’s Michael Matza in 1988. 'The thrill was the idea of just being on a street, turning a corner and looking for something to see. It was just an amazing feeling.... Photography became my obsession.... In a way it's not so different when I go out to work now. It's just that now I have years of experience in knowing how to use that little machine in front of me - at least better than I used it then. When it's good and interesting it's still that feeling of being on the street and wondering - God, I love this! - what's going to happen next?'"
WILLIAM GRIMES, THE NEW YORK TIMES:
" Mary Ellen Mark, whose unflinching yet compassionate depictions of prostitutes in Mumbai, homeless teenagers in Seattle and mental patients in a state institution in Oregon made her one of the premier documentary photographers of her generation, died on Monday in Manhattan. She was 75.
"The cause was myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease affecting bone marrow and blood, said Julia Bezgin, her studio manager."
OLIVIER LAURENT, LIGHTBOX, TIME MAGAZINE:
"A humanist photographer, Mark’s work had been widely published in LIFE, the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. During her career, the photographer, who was born in Elkins Park, Penn., near Philadelphia, produced 18 books and was working on her 19th for Aperture. That final project was focused on Tiny, a young prostitute from Seattle whom she had photographed in Streetwise, her much admired opus published in 1988.
"Working for LIFE Magazine, Mark had traveled to Seattle in 1983 to work on a story about runaway children. Along with reporter Cheryl McCall, she had chosen Seattle 'because it is known as America’s most livable city, she wrote in the preface to her book. 'By choosing America’s ideal city we were making the point: If street kids exist in a city like Seattle then they can be found everywhere in America, and we are therefore facing a major social problem of runaways in this country.'
"Streetwise emerged from the assignment. 'In every successful still photographic project that I have completed there has always been a turning point in the story where I felt that perhaps I was working on something that could be very special,' Mark wrote. Streetwise also became a documentary film, directed by the photographer’s husband Martin Bell.
"One of the most acclaimed and influential photographers of her generation, Mary Ellen Mark has achieved an almost legendary status through her impressive array of books, exhibitions, and editorial work for magazines. Her photo-essays and portraits have appeared in such prestigious publications as LIFE, New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. For over four decades, she has traveled extensively to make pictures that reflect an abiding humanity, compassion, and empathy. Her images of our world’s diverse cultures have become landmarks in the field of documentary photography. Her portrayals of Mother Teresa, Indian circuses, and brothels in Bombay, were the product of many years of diligent work in India. Her photo essay on runaway children in Seattle became the basis of the Academy Award nominated film STREETWISE, directed and photographed by her husband, Martin Bell.
"Mary Ellen Mark recently received the Lifetime Achievement in Photography award from the George Eastman House and the Outstanding Contribution to Photography award from the World Photography Organisation. She has also received the Infinity Award for Journalism, the Cornell Capa Award, an Erna & Victor Hasselblad Foundation Grant, and a Walter Annenberg Grant for her book and exhibition project on America. Among her other awards are the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the Matrix Award for outstanding woman in the field of film/photography, and the Dr. Erich Salomon Award for outstanding merits in the field of journalistic photography. Mark was also presented with honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from her Alma Mater, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of the Arts; three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Photographer of the Year Award from the Friends of Photography; the World Press Award for Outstanding Body of Work Throughout the Years; the Victor Hasselblad Cover Award; two Robert F. Kennedy Awards; and the Creative Arts Award Citation for Photography at Brandeis University.
"She has published eighteen 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), Prom (Getty, 2012) and Man and Beast (University of Texas Press, 2014.) Mark’s photographs have been exhibited worldwide.
"She also acted as the associate producer of the major motion picture, AMERICAN HEART (1992), directed by Martin Bell. Her book, Exposure, is a large retrospective book published by Phaidon Press that showcases 134 of Mary Ellen’s best images, including both iconic and previously unpublished images.
"Aside from her book and magazine work, Mark has photographed advertising campaigns for such prestigious clients as Barnes and Noble, British Levis, Coach Bags, Eileen Fisher, Hasselblad, Heineken, Keds, Mass Mutual, Nissan, and Patek Philippe."
ELIZA BERMAN, LIFE, SOCIETY, TIME:
"Mary Ellen Mark frequently photographed people on the fringes of society. By training her camera on those who went unseen, she willed them to be just the opposite.
"In 1983, a collection of these photographs was published in a LIFE Magazine photo essay called 'Streets of the Lost.' The unseen in this case were the homeless youth of Seattle. When Mark’s indelible images hit newsstands, a once-invisible population was brought to life by an unforgettable collection of very real human faces."
Click here, to visit Mary Ellen Mark's website.