Mary Ellen Mark (2007-09-27)

Mary Ellen Mark
Practice: Photographer
Date of Lecture: 2007-09-27


Over the course of her career, Mary Ellen Mark has produced numerous widely acclaimed and influential photographic series whose subjects have included women in the Oregon State Mental Hospital’s maximum-security ‘Ward 81’, prostitutes working in the Falkland Road brothels of Bombay, runaway children in Seattle, as well as a series focusing on the legendary Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Her photographic treatment of her subjects illuminates the difficulties of their, sometimes tragic, lives without condescension or sentimentality.

Mary Ellen Mark was born and raised in Philadelphia and studied at the University of Pennsylvania. After traveling around Europe, Mark sought work in the late 1960’s shooting film stills for Hollywood productions, which lead to the creation of her first major body of work. Shooting at the Oregon State Mental Hospital for director Milos Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Mark became interested in the women of the institute’s maximum security Ward 81. She sought permission to spend time living with, interviewing, and shooting them. Through this project, her distinct style and subject matter would be quickly and notably established.

Mark Ellen Mark has being a contributing photographer to The New Yorker, LIFE, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair and is the recipient of many professional awards, including, the Cornell Capa Award from the International Center of Photography; the Infinity Award for Journalism; a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship; and the Dr. Erich Salomon Award for outstanding work in the field of journalistic photography. Readers of American Photo recently voted her “Most Influential Woman Photographer”.


She has published fifteen books including Falkland Road: Prostitutes of Bombay (1981), Streetwise (1988), and Twins (2003). Her most recent publication, Exposure (2005) showcases one hundred and thirty four of her strongest images.

In addition to her documentary practice, Mary Ellen Mark has also worked on many advertising campaigns for clients such as Barnes and Noble, British Levis, Eileen Fisher, Hasselblad, Heineken, Keds, and Nissan.

After completed her B.F.A. in 1962, Mark attended the Annenberg School for Communication where she graduated from the M.A. program in 1964. She has also been presented with honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from her Alma Mater, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of the Arts. She currently resides in New York City with her husband, film director Robert Bell with whom she made film versions of both Streetwise and Twins.

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