September 1991
Valerie Gladstone

Mary Ellen Mark, Pinky, Shiva ji, and Laxmi, Great Royal Circus. Junadagh, India, 1990 (platinum print, 13 3/4" x 19).

Famed photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark has spent twenty‑five years pursuing the lost, the marginal, and the mad. Typical Mark subjects include America's homeless, patients at an Oregon mental hospital, Mother Teresa's missions of charity in Calcutta, and prostitutes in Bombay. This month, Castelli Graphics in New York City hosts an exhibit of her Indian circus photographs, which document a century‑old tradition now on the verge of extinction. Simul­taneously, Mark's complete work can be seen in a full‑scale retrospective at Manhattan's International Center of Photography (Midtown).

"As soon as I discovered the Indian circuses, I knew I had to photograph them," says the fifty‑one‑year‑old Mark, who is known for her intense devotion to her subjects. (She spent months traveling with more than a dozen troupes to establish the intimacy that her pictures reflect.) "The performers are so disciplined, the trainers so loving with their animals." Mark then transferred her enthusiasm for the circuses to her friend John Irving, who has written what she describes as "an incredibly beautiful screenplay" about them. Mark begins production on the film entitled Son of the Circus, next fall, with her husband, British filmmaker Martin Bell.

Castelli Graphics, 578 Broadway, New York, NY 10012; 212‑941‑9855; beginning September. International Center of Photography (Midtown); 1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036; 212‑768‑4682 September 6 through November 17.