This season, if you could skip around the country a bit, you’d get a sense of photographers’ varying attitude towards the people of their time. Southern California presents Julia Margaret Cameron’s self-assigned mission of ennobling the great souls of English literature and science. New York looks at Mary Ellen Mark’s compassionate interest in people seldom glorified in either literature or science, then shifts to Nan Goldin’s immersion in the seemingly anything-but-noble lives of her friends. (It’s refreshing to find three one-woman shows of note,) Boston returns to celebrities with Herb Ritts; great souls no longer seem to be the issue. San Francisco has a different agenda –an unusual way to look at the history of photography in the American West.
This year Mary Ellen Mark receives the Masters Series Retrospective and Award from the School of Visual Arts in New York, where 45 of her photographs will be shown from October 7 to November 1. This is the first time SVA has given the award to a photographer. Mark, who made her name with emotionally risky black-and-white photojournalism that concentrates on people living little-noticed lives, has a knack for finding the quirky detail in what looks like average subjects and the elements that look most like us in those we might think strange.