TEXAS MONTHLLY
OUR 100 BEST PHOTOS AND THE STORIES BEHIND THEM
February 1998
Art Director: J.D. Stout

(EXCERPTS)

Mary Ellen Mark, the author of eleven books, is internationally renowned for documentary photography, such as her photo essays on circuses and brothels in India and runaway children in Seattle. She has also produced the films Streetwise and American Heart and worked for a variety of corporations in the U. S. and abroad. She lives in New York.


215R-528-004
SMALL-TOWN RODEO COWBOYS, by Mary Ellen Mark.
March 1992

BOERNE "RODEO, TEXAS, USA" MARCH 1992

In the summer of 1991 Texas Monthly invited internationally celebrated photographer Mary Ellen Mark to chronicle small-town Texas rodeo life. Mark, a New Yorker, has long been fascinated with photographing small‑scale, family‑run circuses all over the world, and the rodeo ‑with its pageantry, daredevilry, animals, and clowns‑ is the Texas equivalent. In a single month she trav­eled to rodeos in a dozen towns, including Big Spring, Boerne, Leakey, Pecos, and Sanderson. Her outsider's eye helped produce one of the magazine's most talked-about and controversial photo essays. Instead of focusing solely on archetypal action scenes ‑bronc busters and bull riders‑ she aimed her camera at the crowds who turn out for the rodeos and the townspeople who participate in the attendant pa­rades and sideshows. Some readers criticized Mark for depicting so many grim, solemn‑looking people, but what others saw in the photographs was a fierce, unyielding pride. Although in late‑twentieth‑century Texas, small‑town residents have about as much contact with cowboy life as city slickers do, the annual rodeo gives them a chance to celebrate the fading pioneer qualities of independence and individualism. By focusing on the social whirl as well as the arena festivities, Mark captured the heart of a community determined to hold on to its heritage.
-SKIP HOLLANDSWORTH


215R-118-005 Mark lassoed this cover shot of a buckaroo in Big Spring.


212L-207-024
WOMAN UNDER ARREST by Mary Ellen Mark.
November 1988

SOUTH DALLAS "THE WAR ZONE" NOVEMBER 1988

The inner‑city crack epidemic of the eighties was at its apogee when Mary Ellen Mark captured the anger and anguish of this freshly detained South Dallas resident while shooting a photo essay to accompany my November 1988 story on the drug's ravagement of a working‑poor neighborhood. Mark, a New Yorker, had been riding with patrolmen in the area when they were called to the scene of a disturbance. The young woman in the photograph "was lying down on the ground when we got there," Mark says. "When female officers approached her, she became hysterical ‑screaming and fighting them. I don't know what she was so upset about. They had to cuff her and put her in the car. I remember they were afraid she was going to bite them. I don't know whether they took her to jail or the hospital."

With the waning of the crack siege -the result of targeted law‑enforcement crackdowns, mandatory sentencing for many drug‑trafficking crimes, and the ever‑shifting tastes of the illicit‑drug market‑ this neighborhood, and many others like it, seem to have reclaimed much of their stability. But the resonance of Mark's photograph, like all great photojournalism, endures: In a single image it informs the viewer of the social malignancy that can be caused by a single mood ‑altering substance and the criminal tyranny that can grow from its sale and use.
A beat patrolman in the drug‑stricken neighborhood, which lies along the borders of Dallas' Fair Park, had told me at the outset of my research, "Almost no one is here for a good reason. You got criminals and victims…" But Mark's photo­graph offers an insight that is at once more dramatic and more subtle: Many denizens of the besieged neighborhood were, in fact, both.
-JIM ATKINSON


212L-207-025

Mark’s contact sheet reflects the neighborhood confrontation; her circled shot at bottom left became the strong opening image.

END