Sad news VIA Philly.com –
Mary Ellen Mark, a photographer known for her incredible humanist photography, passed away Monday in New York City. A rep confirmed the news Tuesday morning. She was 75.
Mark was born (March 20, 1940) and raised in Elkins Park. She graduated from Cheltenham High School (“I was head cheerleader,” she told the Inquirer’s Stephen Rea in 2008). In 1962, she received a bachelor of fine arts in art history and painting from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s in photojournalism in 1964 from Penn’s Annenberg School of Communication. She would return to the local institution to receive honorary doctorates in fine arts in 1992 and 1994.
Mark said she got her big break while working for a Penn alumni magazine. On assignment at Rosemont College, she met Pat Carbine, then managing editor of Look, who later took her pitch to photograph London drug clinics.
“From the very first moment I took pictures [on the streets of Philadelphia], I loved it,” Mark told the Inquirer’s Michael Matza in 1988. “The thrill was the idea of just being on a street, turning a corner and looking for something to see. It was just an amazing feeling. … Photography became my obsession. … In a way it’s not so different when I go out to work now. It’s just that now I have years of experience in knowing how to use that little machine in front of me – at least better than I used it then. When it’s good and interesting it’s still that feeling of being on the street and wondering – God, I love this! – what’s going to happen next?”
That title suggests a lot, I know. These are amazing times online. There are at any point, almost surely simultaneous, multiple battles occurring in larger cultural wars over things like racial and sexual politics. The recent Stephen Colbert – Suey Park skirmish was fascinating, the back and forth analysis provided me, at least, with an education in the current taxonomy of racial and gender politics at least framed by a small subset of the larger culture.
Anyway, so it now falls on photography to fire our interest and further the fine-tuning of all of our racial and political sensibilities. Here specifically, in the article I’m linking to, the analysis turns towards two different presentations of the same photographs taken (obviously) by the same photographer and how those presentations differ and cross many lines. Some that are probably okay to cross and some that are, increasingly, not.
None of us really want to offend with our photographs or our presentation of them, or to have our work frowned upon by those who are more in-tuned, sometimes by way of professional experience and sometimes by way of their own personal experiences, to the myriad and shifting protocols surrounding photography that involves the lives of people who are not us. Whoever we may be.
Okay that was tricky. I have included a bunch of MY recent images that I do (or do NOT) think work well with this subject matter. (I refuse to say. ;-)) But I repeat, these are NOT the images referred to in the articles. These are my own images, taken yesterday in downtown Los Angeles. By me.
I would love to hear what others here have to say about all of this. Please feel free to jump in. I think one place to start, maybe most obviously, is what is the responsibility of photographers to click the shutter, or not, when seeing realities that also represent stereotypes in his or her viewfinder. That would be a starting point for one discussion, actually. The blurred line betweens art and documentary photography, presentation and commentary, etc., all are other fascinating angles as well. Anyway.
Here is a quote that describes what the writer of this piece does in the linked article. It’s a great idea. The result itself might elicit a more mixed response from readers.
Below, I step through the images that Politico ran, juxtaposing the caption of the photo from Raab’s site with the Politico caption with a brief comment on how that copy effects the meaning of the picture.