new york times book review
February 16, 1992
by Mary Ellen Mark.

"Rat and Mike With a Gun," Seattle, 1983, by Mary Ellen Mark.

Haunting images of society's outsiders and unfortunates have been the continuing interest of the photographer Mary Ellen Mark, as shown in MARY ELLEN MARK : 25 Years (Bulfinch/Little, Brown, $60). The book, edited by Marianne Fulton, a curator at the International Museum of Photography, traces, in 130 richly textured images, the photographer's preoccupation with the lives of those who are, in her words, "the unfamous." Ms. Mark seeks out disregarded, marginal lives, like the anonymous subject of "Tattooed Man at Aryan Nations Congress, Hayden Lake, Idaho," who, standing alone on a gravel road turns to display a flaming swastika emblazoned on his back. She is equally drawn to people in bizarrely unusual situations like the Indian circus performers who were the subject of a 1989 project. Ms. Mark records often sad, and always difficult, situations in images that are both emotional and highly sensuous; moving in close to her subjects, she brings tactile immediacy to both the seductive and the repulsive. Ms. Fulton says that Ms. Mark looks for universals; the photographer's strength lies in her ability to unite the humanity of her subjects with the formal imperatives of art.