Mary Ellen Mark "What happens to children nobody wants?"
LIFE, May 1997
Dawna and Kent
Norma Claypool and Jamon
Mary Ellen Mark thought she was going to Baltimore to photograph a saint, an elderly blind woman named Norma Claypool, who over the years had adopted 15 hard-to-place children. Instead, she found a much more complicated, and human, story-one with six difficult subjects. The five children still in Claypool's home suffered from a variety of afflictions, including severe facial deformities and compulsive self-injurious behavior. And although Claypool's intentions were noble, the care she was able to provide was often inadequate. But if she didn't care for the children, who would? Were her efforts better than nothing? Those are difficult questions to answer. "A lot of my stories are very hard, very tough," says Mark. "But it was wonderful to have the opportunity to shoot something of substance. This kind of story doesn't come around very often."