RIP Mary Ellen Mark, 1940-2015
I first saw her work in a 1991 issue of Rolling Stone. (I had a subscription then). You can see the same photos I saw in that issue on her site. This photograph, this one above, reminded me of the cover of Dinsoaur Jr.’s album Green Mind. That photograph is by Joseph Szabo though. I remember cutting the pics out of Rolling Stone and pasting them in a collage that afterward hung in my bedroom for years, until I grew up and went to college and threw so much away. The photos were accompanied by an essay by the filmmaker Louis Malle, who wrote of Mark:
It is Mary Ellen Mark’s triumph to combine successfully two different approaches to photography. Like Cartier-Bresson and the best photojournalists, she knows how to find the perfect angle, the exact fraction of a second that will tell the story in one shot. On the other hand, her choice of subjects, her taste for the singular, her visual imagination, make one think of Diane Arbus and other poet-photographers. But what makes Mary Ellen unique is her compassion. She never puts down the people she photographs. She is moved by them; she shares their sufferings, their difficulties, their contradictions. Even when she portrays a Klansman at an Aryan Nations Congress, she does not ridicule him or pass judgment. The setting, the composition, emphasize the pathetic isolation of people who are parochial remnants of the past, left behind by history on this country road, guerrillas of a war long over.