Iconic documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark passed away on Monday, May 25. She was well known for her penetrating work and for the number of photographers’ lives she touched in a myriad of ways. In 1988 she photographed a story for National Geographic
Those in the Leica circle are no stranger to the name Mary Ellen Mark (link is external). It is with great sadness that we must inform our readers that she has passed... She was 75. Time has an article entitled, "In Memoriam: Mary Ellen Mark (1940 – 2015)" (link is external) that's worth a read. She was an avid Leica shooter, owning four Leica cameras - two M4-2s, one M4-P and one M-6 along with five Leitz lenses. She was featured on the Leica blog (link is external) several times and even held appearances (link is external) and workshops (link is external) at Leica stores.
Back in 2005, when I thought I wanted to be a photographer, I took a few classes at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in NYC. One was a lighting class taught by one of Mary Ellen Mark's previous assistants (who had since moved on to do lightin
“Magazines are not interested in work that is very personal. They want work that can be changed with a grey or blue filter in post-production. If young photographers are interested in what I was, in telling stories, they have to pursue that. Don’t let technology push you around”.
I think what photography can do is open up all sorts of lives for people -- worlds that people couldn't understand. Some of the very dramatic pictures people have done, particularly of wars, the Vietnam war especially (because access was better), made people aware of how horrible it was – for example, the photograph that Eddie Adams took of General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner or the photograph that Nick Ut took of the burned child running down the street -- it's very important to make people aware of what's going on in the world.
Mary Ellen Mark is a renowned, award-winning photographer. Her work has spanned over 40 years with exhibits all over the world including “Leica: My First Camera” that premiered at the opening of Leica Store and Gallery Los Angeles in June 2013 and is now on display at Leica Store Washington DC.
It’s not every day you get to hang out with a living legend of the photographic world and watch her do what she does best. That’s exactly what we were fortunate enough to do when we spent a day in New York City’s Tompkins Square Park with an icon of documentary photography, Mary Ellen Mark.