Mary Ellen Mark, one of the great American social documentary photographers of the second half of the 20th century, passed away last Monday of myelodysplastic syndrome at the age of 75.
I’d seen the picture below, but was otherwise unfamiliar with her work. After learning of her death I spent some time reading about her and looking at her photographs. Very Impressive! I particularly liked the rapport she built up with her subjects and the way that she often stayed in touch with some of them for years afterwards. How different from many casual street photographs of homeless people that you see – often taken by people who have no real concern for their plight.
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.
Ms. Mark began her career with magazines like Look and Life, taking a classic documentary approach to often difficult material and usually working in black and white. Early on, she showed a remarkable ability to win the confidence of her subjects, and she maintained contact with many of them through the years.