Intimate America
November 11, 1999


MARY ELLEN MARK, whose portfolio of striking images is captured in American Odyssey 1963‑1999 (Aperture), sees the United States (and her photographic rendering of it) as "continuously diverse ‑ a combination of things that are very beautiful and things that are not so beautiful, things that are very funny and things that are very sad." Through her luminous black‑and‑white prints, we follow Mark (a ROLLING STONE contributor since 1976) into the nooks and crannies of American life, from the toddler beauty pageants of California and the mean streets of Seattle to the well‑appointed homes of celebs like ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and blues monarch Etta James (left). The rapport that Mark establishes with her subjects is extraordinary; without exception, they lift their everyday masks to show her the contradictory souls underneath. "I want to take pictures that are extremely intimate, that really say something that's very human and very personal about people," Mark says. "That's what it's all about."