Photographer's Forum
Rewind: A look at the past, 25 years of photography
Winter 2002
By Grace Schaub
Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark


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"I wish that magazines still supported the same strong, social documentary stories that they did 40 years ago. I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to enter all those different worlds and meet so many people and take such personal pictures of their lives." ‑ Mary Ellen Mark

Photographer Mary Ellen Mark / Writer trace Schaub / Designer Mehosh Dzladzlo / 1980

Painting is dead, yet folks have still passionately painted, documentary photographers are still obsessed by tracking down the real truths of the world and making art so others can see it and share in it.

New York photographer MARY ELLEN MARK has been taking pictures since the early 1960s. She is famous for her social documentary photos of runaways and the homeless, Indian prostitutes and Christian bikers. Her latest monographs include Mary Ellen Mark American Odyssey (Aperture, 1999) and Mary Ellen Mark (Phaidon, Photography Series 55, 2001).

Even 10 years ago, my magazine assignments were often extraordinary, bringing me into so many different worlds. For example, I photographed small-town rodeos, traveling all over Texas for about a month. Most publications don't want social documentary photographs anymore. Magazines will publish the current news ‑ for example, the war in Afghanistan or the Middle East. But there are no longer assignments on Miami Beach or a family in Ohio or small-town rodeos in Texas. Magazines won't spend the time and money on those stories anymore. My magazine work is now as a portrait photographer. I try to balance this with my personal work.

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