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About the Photographer
Mark, Mary Ellen
Mary Ellen Mark recorded many stories, including those of prostitutes, rodeos, circuses, street children, and mental health facilities, over the course of her career. Knowing full well that photographing people who are radically different from the photographer can turn exploitive, she developed a reputation for humanitarian concern. As she stated, "In most cases, if I didn't tell their story, nobody would." She was, in fact, seriously interested in "their stories" and used photography as an instrument for expanding our understanding of her concerns, not an exclusive formal end in itself. The socially responsible photographer has exactly the same task with subject as with audience: to engage without offending and to communicate completely without becoming neutral.
Educated at the University of Pennsylvania (BFA, 1962 and MA, 1964), Mary Ellen Mark also received honorary degrees from Kenyon College, Ohio; Columbia College Chicago; the Center for Creative Studies, Detroit; and the University of Pennsylvania. Her works have been widely exhibited and are held in the permanent collections of the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; the California Museum of Photography, Riverside; and the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland, among many others. Mark received three National Endowment for the Arts grants (1977, 1980, 1990) and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1994).