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Remembering Photographer Mary Ellen Mark

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Remembering Photographer Mary Ellen Mark

To remember the late Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015) is to remember a woman of spectacular skill and character.

Mark was known for her riveting documentary photography, piercing photojournalism and gripping portraiture. Throughout her career, she produced 18 books and had her work widely published in Life, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, the New York Times and Vanity Fair. She garnered three Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, and in 2014 received the Lifetime Achievement in Photography Award from the George Eastman House.


Our friends at the International Center of Photography (ICP), where Mark was a longtime friend, mentor and faculty member, published a heartfelt tribute that speaks to the trailblazing photographer’s legacy:

“A model of dedication, curiosity, imagination, professionalism and stamina, Mary Ellen Mark embodied all of which is necessary to thrive as an artist in the modern world. What separated her from the deep talent pool of contemporary photographers was her unique ability to pursue editorial and commercial assignments without losing sight of her personal work.”

Melissa Harris, editor-in-chief at Aperture Foundation, described Mark’s “extraordinary will and determination” to TIME:

“She wanted to work – she loved being a photographer. She was great with her subjects – working so intuitively – and was able to get at the essence of the people she was photographing, to tell their stories. It mattered to her to represent them faithfully and truly, and not just in the documentary visual sense, but distinguishing each individual for who he or she really was in the world. Her work is humane, all heart.”

In 1988, Aperture published Streetwise, an extension of Mark’s work for Life chronicling the unseen side of “America’s most livable city,” Seattle. The story also inspired a documentary film of the same title.

Mark’s latest assignment before her death was documenting New Orleans’ ongoing recovery from Hurricane Katrina. For photography students, professionals and enthusiasts alike, we highly recommend visiting Picture This: New Orleans, an exhibition of her final body of work presented by CNN and ICP on Governor’s Island.

Duggal, led by visual consultant Hardy Rosenstein, had the the absolute honor of producing some of Mark’s images for the show. As ICP puts it perfectly, “She will be missed by all us, yet we know that her spirit will live on in her many books and countless photographic works.”


Picture This: New Orleans

Governor’s Island, NYC

Nolan Park, Building 19A

Aug. 1, 2015 – Sept. 27, 2015

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