Mary Ellen Mark and Karen Folger Jacobs: Ward 81: Voices



ISBN: 9783969990131 Category:


Ward 81, photographed in 1976, was Mary Ellen Mark’s first independent long-term project. Mark and writer Karen Folger Jacobs set out to document the lives of the women in this locked ward at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem—the only one in the state. Every day for five weeks, Mark photographed and Jacobs interviewed the women on Ward 81. At night they slept in an empty adjacent ward.

Ward 81: Voices, an expanded edition of the original 1979 book, includes previously unpublished photographs, excerpts from interviews with patients and recorded conversations between Mark and Jacobs, as well as new essays examining the influence of their project. Ward 81 has always been considered one of the best examples of Mark’s ability to portray subjects living on the edges of society with compassion. The inclusion of the women’s voices gives invaluable insight, not only into the lives of the patients, but also into Mark and Jacobs’ experiences and the challenges they faced during their collaboration.

We identify with the fragility and the strength of these women we came to love, these adopted sisters of ours. They are women we might have been or, women we might one day become. – Karen Folger Jacobs

Additional information

Weight 2700 g
Dimensions 31.3 x 31.1 cm
Publisher name Steidl
Publication date 20 July 2023
Number of pages 288
Format Hardback
Contributors Edited by Martin Bell, Julia Bezgin, and Meredith Lue
Dimensions 31.3 x 31.1 cm
Weight 2700 g


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The images of Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015) are icons of documentary and humanistic photography. Mark's more than 20 books include Passport (1974), Falkland Road (1981) and Indian Circus (1993). Her 2015 book Tiny: Streetwise Revisited is a culmination of 32 years documenting Erin Blackwell (Tiny), who featured in Martin Bell's 1985 film Streetwise and Mark's 1988 book of the same name. A dedicated social documentarian and portraitist, she often turned her lens to marginalized communities—circus performers in India, street children in Seattle, the patients of Ward 81, and many others—invariably connecting profoundly with her subjects. Mark's work has been exhibited and published in magazines worldwide. Steidl published The Book of Everything in 2020.

Karen Folger Jacobs, born in Cleveland in 1940, graduated from Antioch College and Boston University before earning a PhD in education at the University of California, Berkeley, where she later served on the faculty. She received four Fulbright awards to teach in colleges in Pakistan and India and has lectured in Europe for UC Berkeley. A licensed therapist, Jacobs was appointed to the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in Washington, D.C., and consults to federal agencies on health issues. Jacobs currently lives and works in Berkeley, California.