In a sense, there are actually two histories of women in photography. One ends in the 1970s; the other begins then. Twenty‑five years ago women stopped being overlooked and started making names for themselves in fine art, fashion, and photojournalism. They have, to a great extent, become not just prominent in photography but a defining presence in the art: It is impossible to consider photography now without including names such as Annie Leibovitz, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Mary Ellen Mark‑and others. This is indeed the decade of women.
MARY ELLEN MARK
Circo Garzetti, Mexico City, 1997.
She emerged in the 1970s as a breathtaking photographic talent, after earning a degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She's made pictures in mental hospitals, in Mother Teresa's mission in Calcutta, at circuses in Mexico, and discos in Manhattan. She's published 11 books ‑her most recent is A Cry for Help: Stories of Homelessness and Hope (Simon & Schuster)‑ and her 25‑year retrospective exhibition is currently on international tour. Mary Ellen Mark changed not only ideas about what women could do in photography; she changed ideas about what photojournalism could be ‑courageous, compassionate, and personal. "In documentary work, being a woman is an advantage when you're going to neighborhoods or areas that are strange to you," she says. "People are more willing to let women come into their homes." ‑D.S.