Hofstra University Museum
(American, born 1940)
Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark

Las Vegas, 1991 (from the In America portfolio, c.1 992)
Gelatin silver print 103/8x 103/8in.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Steven Ball
HU 93.17.6

Mary Ellen Mark has said, "The obsessions we have are pretty much the same our whole lives. Mine are people, the human condition, life." She submerges herself into the lives of her subjects, sometimes spending months getting to know them. Her photographs document the lives sad, tragic, weird or funny ‑ of a diverse range of people. Whether abroad or in the United States, Mark's intimate connection with her subjects are revealed in her photographs.

Mark studied at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, earning a B.F.A. in Painting and Art History in 1962, and an M.F.A. in Photojournalism in 1964. Mark received a Fulbright Scholarship in 1965 to photograph in Turkey. After traveling throughout Turkey and Europe, Mark returned to the United States in 1967, settling in New York City.

Her work as a still photographer for film productions led to one of her best known projects ‑ Ward 81. After working on location for the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at the Oregon State Mental Hospital, she returned there in 1976 to photograph the resident mental patients. Her interest in people living on the periphery of mainstream society continues today. Her search for subjects has taken her to distant countries (prostitutes in Bombay and Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India), and across America (a homeless family in Los Angeles, California and runaway children in Seattle, Washington). Mark shows great empathy for the people she photographs, often challenging our preconceived notions about the subject and exploring social issues.

Since the 1960s, her photographs and photo essays have appeared in numerous magazines, including Aperture, Harper's Bazaar, LIFE, Look, National Geographic, New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Time and Vanity Fair. She has published 15 books, most recently, Exposure, a large retrospective book showcasing her best images, including both iconic and previously unpublished images.

Mark has received numerous awards and honors for her photojournalism, including the Cornell Capa Award, International Center of Photography; the Infinity Award for Journalism; an Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation Grant; National Endowment for the Arts fellowships; a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship; two Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards; the Matrix Award, for outstanding woman in the field of film/photography; and the Dr. Erich Salomon Award, for outstanding merits in the field of journalistic photography.

Her photographs have been exhibited both internationally and nationally since the 1 970s. In 1992, a retrospective exhibition, Mary Ellen Mark: 25 Years, opened at the International Center for Photography in New York City, and traveled throughout the United States and Europe. Mark's photographs are included in numerous museum collections, in the United States and abroad.