If you are a fan of photojournalism, documentary photography or portraiture, you must be familiar with Mary Ellen Mark photography work. One of the greatest names in American photography art, Mary Ellen Mark died last year; however, her art remains as one of the most renowned bodies of work in contemporary photography. New York City-based Howard Greenberg Gallery is organizing Mary Ellen Mark exhibition. The show is titled Attitude: Portraits by Mary Ellen Mark, 1964–2015 and it will celebrate her decades-long career. The exhibition is curated by Melissa Harris, editor-at-large, Aperture Foundation. Parallel to this exhibition, Tiny: Streetwise Revisited, Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark will be held at Aperture in New York.
Mary Ellen Mark was born in 1940 in Philadelphia, and her four decades-long career led Mark to achieve a global recognition for her art. What is so unique about her photography? Many would certainly say: photojournalism and portraiture. And, yes, it’s completely true. But, she also traveled a lot, visiting countries all over the world – that is why we recognize humanism as well as cosmopolitanism in her photographs. Indeed, her practice moved the boundaries of portraiture in photography, while her photo essays and portraiture were exhibited worldwide, and appeared in famous publications, including LIFE, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. Apart from creating her own art, Mark was also a respectable teacher – she taught photography workshops for nearly 30 years, most notably in Oaxaca, Mexico. Movie fans are probably familiar with Mark’s work thanks to the film Streetwise (an Oscar-nominated film), directed and photographed by her husband Martin Bell, but based on Mary Ellen’s photo essay on runaway children in Seattle. Her work is part of many notable permanent collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the International Center of Photography, New York; Bibliotheque nationale de France and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; California Museum of Photography, Riverside, and many others.
So, what the visitors of the Attitude: Portraits by Mary Ellen Mark, 1964–2015 can expect to see? There will be highlights from many of the artist’s famous series - images of prostitutes and their patrons from the streets of Bombay, India (Falkland Road series); a bit bizarre images of performers and contortionists and their animals from a circus in India (Indian Circus series); Streetwise, homeless young people from the streets of Seattle, including a girl named Tiny; Tiny: Streetwise Revisited, a series that was finished in 2015, encapsulating Mark’s 30-plus years photographing Tiny, who is now a middle-aged woman. Finally, let’s not forget that Mark also photographed celebrities, including Marlon Brando, Sean Penn, Woody Allen, and Yoko Ono.
As Melissa Harris, the curator of the exhibition, sums up: In choosing the images from among many of her key series, I was defining attitude in terms of a sense of self, a kind of awareness and confidence, self-possession. Harris also adds: She was passionate and compassionate. Life mattered. Animals mattered. People mattered. Therefore, be sure not to miss this exhibition! As we already mentioned, a related show titled Tiny: Streetwise Revisited, Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark, will be on view at Aperture in New York (from May 26 until June 30, 2016). When it comes to the exhibition Attitude: Portraits by Mary Ellen Mark, 1964–2015, it is on view from May 5 until June 18, 2016 at Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York City. The opening reception is scheduled for May 5, 6-8pm.
Featured Images: Mary Ellen Mark - Marlon Brando during the Filming of Apocalypse Now, Philippines, 1976, Gelatin silver print; printed later. Image size: 12 1/4 x 18 3/8 inches; Paper size: 16 x 20 inches; Mary Ellen Mark - Tiny blowing a bubble (during Streetwise), Seattle, 1983, Gelatin silver print; printed later. Image size 14 3/8 x 18 1/2 inches; Paper size 16 x 20 inches; Mary Ellen Mark - Sean Penn, 1983, Gelatin silver print; printed later. Image size: 15 x 22 1/4 inches; Paper size 20 x 24 inches; Mary Ellen Mark - Gloria and Raja. Great Gemini Circus, Perintalmanna, India, 1989. Gelatin silver print; printed later. All Images courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery.