Mary Ellen Mark: Encounters


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ISBN: 9783969993033 Category:


When the camera is between me and the subject, it often shields me from a grim reality while allowing me to access otherwise impenetrable worlds. – Mary Ellen Mark

Whether photographing the socially disadvantaged, those on the fringes of society or celebrities, Mary Ellen Mark told the stories of her protagonists without prejudice. For both her private and commissioned work, Mark accompanied her subjects often for many years-sometimes even for decades. In the light of the emerging women’s movement in the USA in the 1960s and ’70s, and as a freelance photographer at a time when print media was suffering its first major crisis, Mark fought her way to the forefront of female voices in photojournalism with her own visual language.

Encounters provides a cross-section of the photographer’s life’s work. The book focuses on five iconic series from the 1970s and ’80s whose subsequent publications in book form contributed significantly to Mark’s reputation: “Ward 81” in which she photographed women in an Oregon psychiatric hospital; a reportage on prostitutes on Falkland Road in Mumbai; a tribute to Mother Teresa’s charitable work; “Indian Circus” documenting traveling circus families; and the long-term project “Streetwise,” in which Mark followed the life of Erin Blackwell (Tiny) for more than 30 years, first as a teenage runaway, later as a mother in precarious living conditions. For the first time, this book contextualizes these works within Mark’s oeuvre and presents them alongside original magazine spreads and archival material including contact sheets, letters and notebooks, to reveal the sweep of her accomplishment and singularly compassionate eye.

Additional information

Weight 1730 g
Dimensions 24.8 x 30.7 cm
Publisher name Steidl
Publication date 25 March 2024
Number of pages 264
Format Hardback
Contributors Edited by Sophia Greiff and Kathrin Schönegg, Text by Melissa Harris, Amanda Maddox, and Mary Panzer
Dimensions 24.8 x 30.7 cm
Weight 1730 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 has published The Book of Everything (2020) and Ward 81: Voices (2023).