Federico Fellini on the Set of Fellini Satyricon, Rome, Italy, 1969
In the late 1960s I began to work on film sets. It was very different from working on film sets today. At that time, you were allowed to walk around and photograph anything on the set. You could often spend several weeks, and you had free access to photograph everything behind the scenes. As a result, I was able to make candid photographs in a way that would be virtually impossible today.
In 1968, Pat Carbine and William Hopkins at Look magazine asked me to photograph a story on Federico Fellini making Satyricon. It was a dream assignment. The film was made in Rome at Cinecittà Studios. Fellini’s world was extraordinary. At first, I was afraid of him. He would get very excited and yell at everyone in sight, and I certainly didn’t want to be one of the ones to be hollered at. But as time went by, I became less afraid of him and more relaxed. He was wonderful in front of the camera. I think he really enjoyed having his picture taken.
Every day something amazing would happen. There were all sorts of exotic extras: albinos, very fat people, very thin people, sometimes freaks. When Fellini was casting for a prostitute scene in Satyricon, many of Rome’s street prostitutes came to the set so Fellini could look at them. Perhaps they would get a part in the film. Everyone wanted a part in a Fellini film; he was the king. One day a heavyset street prostitute with long black hair came to the set. For some reason, Fellini didn’t want to use her in the scene and dismissed her. She took the rejection in a very bad way and became hysterical. It took four people to carry the screaming woman off the set.
There was also an old man who had been an extra in one of Fellini’s earlier films. His name was II Marinàio, which means “The Sailor.” Fellini had become very attached to him and invited him to come to the set every day. He even had a chair for II Marinàio with his name on it. I later heard that the man died on the set while napping in his chair under a tree during a lunch break.
Fellini is one of my favorite directors. His sense of story, camera, lighting, costume, and set design is unmatched. I used to spend time in the dressing rooms watching his makeup artists and costume designers doing their magic. One day, the makeup artists applied glamorous makeup on me. When I returned to the set, no one, not even Fellini, knew who I was.
As you can imagine, the crew spent a lot of time preparing for upcoming scenes. Sometimes I would follow Fellini around. The picture of him with the megaphone was taken when he was supervising the building of a new set. It was a magic moment. He seemed to be gracefully dancing, exactly like one of the characters in his magical films. It was just one moment, one frame, but this was my favorite image of Fellini taken during the two months I spent on the set of Satyricon.

Pinky and Shiva Ji,
Junagadh, India, 1992
I met Pinky at the Great Royal Circus when she was about 6 years old. She lived with her trainer, Pratap Singh, and his wife. Pratap Singh had the most interesting and gifted group of child acrobats in the circus. Pinky was his most talented one. No one could approach her in either beauty or skill. She was totally devoted to being a great performer and loved being a little star.
She came from a very poor family in a small village. Her father was dead, and her mother had hired out Pinky and her sister, Radha, to Pratap when Pinky was about 3.
Four years after I first visited the Royal Circus, my husband, Martin Bell, returned with me to India to make a film for National Geographic about Pratap’s troupe and Pinky. Martin decided to go back to her village to film her mother. He did not tell Pinky that he was going to her village to meet her mother.
The following year, we brought a video of the film to the circus. Everyone in the troupe was very excited and waiting for the film. Right before we played the tape, Pratap whispered to us that Pinky and Radha’s mother had died in the last year. I was so worried that it would be upsetting for them to see their mother. I didn’t know how they would react, but there was no turning back. The whole troupe was sitting in the tent, anxious to see the video on the television, so we proceeded to show the film.
When the section with their mother was shown, Pinky and Radha sat there silently. Huge tears rolled down their cheeks. They were transfixed; they said nothing. There was total silence. They never said anything about it. Even at their young age, they displayed a rare dignity.
It was definitely one of the most painful moments of my life as a photographer. I felt foolish.
We spoke to Pratap recently. He has left the circus and is living in Madras. He works as an animal trainer for television shows. Pinky, now a teenager, lives with Pratap and his family. She works in a beauty salon and rides around the city on her bicycle wearing a baseball cap.
Two years ago, there was yet another tragedy in Pinky’s life. While leaving the circus, Pratap’s truck was hit by a car. Everyone was slightly injured. Radha got up, walked around, and seemed fine. Then she collapsed. They couldn’t reach the hospital in time. Now Pinky is totally alone except for Pratap and his family.

Diamond Settles, Halloween, South Bronx H.E.L.P. Shelter, New York, USA, 1993
Maria Cuomo Cole and Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, at the H.E.L.P. organization, commissioned me in 1993 to photograph the people who lived in the several H.E.L.P. shelters scattered around the New York area. I spent the entire summer and part of the fall photographing this project.
What is so special about the H.E.L.P. shelters is that each family is given a private apartment. The apartments surround an area of grass where children can play. In other shelters, people often have to sleep in one room with cots side by side. There is no privacy. Because of this, many people lose their sense of dignity, as well as their sense of family.
There have been many photographs of people in shelters. I was looking for a new way to photograph this subject. I decided to photograph life in the shelters through the eyes of children. After working with the Damm family, I had a strong interest in how homelessness affects children.
The majority of the photographs were taken with my 4 x 5 camera. I wanted the photographs to be about the details in the lives of children. I wanted to make portraits of them in their environment with their possessions. When a child has such an impermanent life, his or her few possessions take on a particular importance.
I knew that Halloween would be a wonderful event to photograph in the shelter. At Halloween I could see the children’s sense of fantasy and imagination in their very inventive costumes.
Since Diamond Settles was so young, her mother picked her costume. She dressed her as a mermaid. When she took Diamond over to the shelter’s Halloween party, the girl was terrified by the ghosts, witches, and other costumes. She had a terrible temper tantrum at the party, and her mother had to carry the screaming mermaid back to their apartment. She put her in the bathroom to calm down. This photograph is of Diamond recovering from her Halloween ordeal.

A Disney Visit to Parmatown Mall, Parma, Ohio, USA, 1997
In the spring of 1997, I was in the Parmatown Mall, in Parma, Ohio, photographing a typical mall in Middle America for David Friend at Life magazine. Luckily, on that weekend Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Goofy came to the mall. Each child was allowed to meet one of the special Disney characters. Hundreds of children and their parents lined up for hours.
There was a strict time schedule for each of the characters, who appeared separately. This wouldn’t have been a problem if Minnie hadn’t been so popular. There were many temper tantrums when Minnie’s time was up. A disappointed child who had waited in line for hours had to meet Goofy or Pluto instead of the beloved Minnie.
The reaction of the children to the Disney characters was fascinating. Some were delighted, and others were terrified. After all, it’s scary when a huge mouse or dog wants to hug you and shake your hand.
This little boy had a mixed reaction: fear and wonder.

Tiny in Her Halloween Costume, Seattle, Washington, USA, 1983
John Loengard and Dick Stolley at Life magazine assigned me to photograph a story on street children in America. Young kids were deserting their families and homes to wander the country and live on the street. This was a relatively new phenomenon in the early 1980s. The magazine decided that this story should be done in Seattle. At that time, Seattle was voted America’s most livable city. John felt that if the story were done in New York or Los Angeles the readers would not be surprised, because they are cities known as tough and violent.
In May of 1983, I traveled to Seattle. The writer and I immediately heard that all the kids hung out on Pike Street. We were able to make our contacts there. On Pike Street, we learned where the kids squatted at night, what they did during the day, and how they got their drugs. We realized that most of the girls and boys were surviving by prostitution.
I first met Tiny in the parking lot of a club called the Monastery. Most of the street kids could not afford to pay the cover charge and many were underage. They used to make their own club in the Monastery’s parking lot. They would run from car to car, drink, do drugs, and have their own party. One Friday night at the Monastery a taxi pulled up, and Tiny and a girlfriend stepped out.
Tiny was an extraordinary-looking child. She was only 13 and indeed very tiny. She was dressed like a grown-up. I tried to talk to her, but she thought I was the “po-lice” and ran away. I found out that she occasionally lived with her mother, and when she wasn’t living with her mother, she survived on the streets as a child prostitute. I found her the next day at her mother’s house.
Tiny has been a friend and a continuous photographic focus ever since. She still has the rare quality of being totally at ease and oblivious of the camera.
This photograph was taken several months after I first met Tiny. My husband, Martin, returned to Seattle to make Streetwise, a film about street kids in which Tiny is the main character. This photograph was taken during his final days of shooting. It was Halloween, and Tiny had pieced together her costume. In her own words, she wanted to look “like a French whore.”

Tiny in the Bathroom with Ray Shon and Tyrese, Seattle, Washington, USA, 2003
Tiny in the Bathroom with Ray Shon and Tyrese, Seattle, Washington, USA, 2003 (pages 38-39)
I’ve kept in contact with Tiny for more than twenty years. During that time, she has had nine children, five of them with different fathers. Even when she was 13 years old she insisted that she wanted to have ten children. I know her five older children much better than I know the four younger ones. I was there for Daylon’s birth, and I watched LaShawndrea and Keanna Rose grow from babies into teenage girls. Daylon, her oldest boy, is now 19 years old. He is tall and handsome. He has already spent time in juvenile detention. He lives with Tiny. LaShawndrea and Keanna, the two oldest girls, live with Katie, Tiny’s aunt. Keanna is a strong willed and confident teenager. The broken family has hurt LaShawndrea the most. Whenever she talks about her mother, big tears roll down her cheeks.
I try to photograph Tiny every few years. I want to continue to do this for the rest of my life. Every time I go to see her, it’s as if I never left. I pick up the camera and start to work. My relationship with her has always been as her “personal photographer,” and it’s one that we’re both comfortable with.
When Martin and I saw her in December of 2003, she was living with her husband and her five younger children. Her husband, Will, had fathered the three youngest children. They were living in a cramped apartment. Ray Shon was 6 when I took this picture. He is Tiny’s fifth child. He is an adorable and loving boy.
More recently, Martin and I returned to Seattle. We were going to photograph the birth of her ninth child. Although she scheduled a C section, she went into labor a month early, so we missed the birth. Even so, we spent time with her and her family. She had promised me that this would definitely be her last child, but she changed her mind. She says she wants at least two more.

Girl sifting through Ashes at the Burning Ghats, Benares, India, 1989
I first visited Benares thirty years ago. It made a profound impression on me. I still find it to be India’s most haunting city: full of mystery and passion. It is my favorite city in India.
People from all over the world come to die in Benares or are brought there by their family members after they die. Manikarnika Chat, on the banks of the Ganges River, is the largest cremation ground in India. Those who wish to die in Benares come and stay in hospices nearby. When they die, their male relatives carry them on biers through the narrow streets leading down to the river. When they arrive at the Ghat with the body, the Doms (or keepers of the ghats) take over.
Very early every morning, a group of the Doms’ children sort through the smoldering coals for treasure. This photograph is of a Doms’ child looking through the ashes for remnants of gold from rings and teeth. She is oblivious to the blinding smoke around her.
I made several trips to the burning ghats in Benares. I spent time with the families who worked there: the woodcutters, the men who shaved the heads of the mourning sons, those who sold marigold wreaths, etc. The children of the workers and the keepers of the ghats fascinated me. I was intrigued by how they lived and played surrounded by death. Their openness and acceptance of it all were truly amazing.
The last photograph I took the day I left was of a woodcutter and his son. I told him I was leaving to go back to America. He said, “Don’t forget to come back here when you die.”

Dog Trainer, Old Delhi, India, 1979
In 1979, Alice George at Geo Magazine sent me to photograph street performers in India.
Street performing in India is a tradition passed on from generation to generation. If you are a snake charmer, your father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all snake charmers, and your son will be one too. Indian street performers are like a tiny one-family circus act. The children learn the family trade from a very early age. Most likely, if there is an animal in the act--a monkey, snake, or even a bear--the animal will live with the family, in or around the tent. In fact, the animal becomes a part of the family. They are very well treated because the families depend on them for their livelihood.
One day in New Delhi, I met a young man who had a beautifully decorated fortune-telling cow. A crowd gathered around the trainer as he shouted, “Have your fortune told by this cow!” He would ask his cow, “Who will find a great fortune? Who will marry a wealthy man?” and so on. The cow would spin around and stop in front of some lucky person.
I asked the man with the cow if I could come to his house. He gave me detailed directions. He lived in a small cottage on top of a big hill in Old Delhi. As soon as I arrived at his house, his father presented himself to me. After all, he was the head of the family. He had heard from his son that a photographer from America was coming to visit, and he was very excited--so excited that he took over. The father trained dogs, not cows, and he loved showing off. One of the tricks was for his dogs to beg with cigarettes in their jaws. As I was photographing the dogs, his son sadly walked down the hill with his cow to go back to the streets to work and make money.

Craig Scarmardo and Cheyloh Mather at the Boerne Rodeo, Texas, USA, 1991
DJ Stout, the art director at Texas Monthly, assigned me to spend a month traveling across Texas to photograph small-town rodeos. He chose me for this project because of my work on the Indian circus. It was a beautiful assignment and a great experience.
I had never been to a rodeo before. Everything about it was fascinating. The atmosphere was totally Texan. There was only one thing that I found terribly disturbing and frightening: it was the sport of bullriding. After a while, I couldn’t even watch it because it was so dangerous. I saw countless men and young boys being thrown and stomped on by bulls, only to be dragged out of the ring bleeding and unconscious. An ambulance always stood by, ready to take the seriously injured to the nearest hospital.
I found it incredible that children learned to bullride as well. You can’t imagine the tears and bruises that I witnessed. These two young boys were excellent bullriders. You can tell by their attitude that they knew it. Even though they were still children, they displayed a machismo beyond anything I had ever seen.
Six years later, Texas Monthly hosted an exhibition of their best photographs. The photograph of Craig and Cheyloh was in the show. I saw them again at the opening party: they had become handsome young men and were still bullriders, as macho as ever.

Cynthia Galves, Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1996
I was photographing for Peter Howe’s book project on mothers and daughters. My focus was on a mother’s loss of a daughter or a daughter’s loss of her mother. I called Dr. Stuart Siegel, who is the director of the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. He is a brilliant doctor and a compassionate person. I told him what I was working on. He suggested that I photograph two children at the hospital who were extremely ill and very special. I knew whoever he suggested would be exceptional.
Ten-year-old Cynthia Calves was one of the children he suggested. Not only was she beautiful, but she had an extraordinary personality. She was a strong young soul. All of the staff on her ward loved her. Despite being constantly connected to a huge machine, she insisted on helping behind the front desk of her ward.
I wanted to make a powerful portrait of her that showed how her attitude contradicted the severity of her situation. Like any other little girl, she had a favorite dress that was perfect for the portrait.
Some months later, I spoke to her mother. She told me that Cynthia had not survived her illness.

Teresa Merriweather, Bruce and Brian Kuzak, Tithe Merriweather, Twinsburg, Ohio, USA, 2001
The Twins Days Festival is an annual gathering of twins in Twinsburg, Ohio. I spent three summers photographing there. On the last two trips, I decided to work with a 20 X 24 Polaroid camera. I set up a studio in a big tent on the fairgrounds. Every day we looked for twins and brought them to the studio to make portraits. Wendy, an intern who worked with me, spent her days on the fairgrounds scouting twins. She found Bruce and Brian, who had cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus. They live in a special home, and their nurses at the time, Teresa and Tillie Merriweather, were also twins.
To get permission to publish their photograph, I had to contact their sister and legal guardian, Laura Srsa. She told me what it was like to grow up with Bruce and Brian. She was 9 when they were born. She said that from the very beginning the family accepted them for who they are. I asked her if she thought that being twins made their disability easier for them to bear. She said, “Definitely, yes. They have each other.”
One of the most difficult aspects of being a documentary photographer is to take pictures of people, like Bruce and Brian, whose lives are very compromised. Pictures like this often make the viewer feel uncomfortable and scared. They don’t understand them and accuse the photographer of being exploitative. One of the most rewarding moments of my career was when I received a letter after the Twins book was published. It was from Laura. It said, “Thank you for including Brian and Bruce. I cannot express in words how much this means to me. I feel so overwhelmed that you included them in your work--Laura.”
Bruce and Brian’s picture is my favorite photograph in the Twins project. Without these two men, the book would be far less powerful.

Clayton Moore, the Former Lone Ranger, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1992
I wanted to make a series of portraits of old-movie cowboys. I suggested the idea to Charlie Holland and Chris Dougherty at Premiere Magazine, and they agreed. Some of the cowboys were famous, and others were not.
One of the cowboys whom I wanted to photograph was Clayton Moore. I had always admired him as the Lone Ranger, the character he played in the famous TV western of the 1950s I photographed him at his home. It was a modern house, but he still lived the part of the Lone Ranger. He insisted on wearing his famous mask for all the pictures.
I had to do everything I could to make him feel at ease with my camera and me, because he was extremely paranoid. When I was finished photographing him, he insisted that I sign all kinds of papers.
As I left, I told him how much I enjoyed meeting him and that I was a big fan. He said to me, “if you’re such a big fan ... what was the name of my horse?” I said, “Trigger.” He looked at me in a very scornful way. I quickly realized that I had made a serious blunder. Trigger was Roy Rogers’s horse; Silver was the Lone Ranger’s horse. I’m sure he never forgave me.

Vera Antinoro, Rhoda Camporato, and Murray Goldman, Luigi's Italian American Club, Miami, Florida, USA, 1993
I had heard that there were gigolos in Miami. I thought it would be a great subject for a photographic story, so I proposed the idea to David Granger at GQ magazine. In December of 1993, I went down to Miami to photograph the gigolos at the dances and parties where they met their dance partners. I had a wonderful time meeting everyone and going to the various dancing clubs. The most popular gigolo was a really fine dancer named Lucky Kargo. All the women loved to dance with him, and he knew it.
I decided to work in 4 x 5 format. It was a challenging format, but it would give me the detail that I wanted in these photographs. This is a party at Luigi’s Italian American Club. The two women to the left were well-known for their brilliant dancing ability.

Harry Hessell at Home, South Beach, Florida, USA, 1979
In 1979 I photographed life in Miami Beach for Frank Müller-May at Stern magazine. As with the Falkland Road assignment, the magazine insisted that I photograph in color.
South Beach in 1979 was a much different place than it is now. The people who lived there were mostly elderly. Many of them were concentration-camp survivors, with numbers tattooed on their arms.
The place had a surreal atmosphere: old Deco hotels, pink bedrooms, and elderly people in brightly colored clothes. The hotels lining the beach had large porches, where their guests sat all day long and stared at the sea.
All the community centers had activities for the elderly, and every night there were dances. One of the most active and interesting places was a park by the sea. Every morning and every afternoon, the older residents gathered at the park to meet and talk. There were song contests. A sign by the podium read, ONE SONG ONLY. It was there that I met Harry Hessell. He said that he was an ex-window washer from New York. He claimed to be 104 years old.
I photographed many of the people whom I met in South Beach at their homes. When I asked Harry if I could go home with him, he was very agreeable. His home was one barren room in an old South Beach hotel. I photographed him by his refrigerator, fixing his dinner of canned soup. He then said to me, “Would you photograph me nude?” I was very surprised and a bit frightened. Harry Hessell was a very strong man for a 104-year-old. You have to be strong to be a window washer. But I knew that if I didn’t seize the opportunity and take his picture, I would never forgive myself. So I said, “Sure.” Harry took off his clothes and sat down on his bed, and that was how this picture was made.

Shadow on a Wall, Shanti Nagar Leprosy Hospital, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, Bengal, India, 1981
While I was working with Mother Teresa’s missions in Calcutta, I heard about her leprosy hospital and colony called Shanti Nagar. I traveled three hours by train to reach it and spent several days there. The place had a calmness and spirituality that was extraordinary. It was a beautiful place.
I took this photograph of a sister being followed by geese late one afternoon. I never saw any boy or his shadow on the wall while taking this picture. This is one of the mysterious and unexplained things that can happen when you are taking pictures.

Mother Teresa Feeding a Man at the home for the Dying, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, Calcutta, India, 1980
I made two trips to Calcutta to photograph Mother Teresa’s missions. The first was in 1980 for John Loengard at Life magazine. The second trip, in 1981, was for a small book (part of the “Untitled” series) for Ansel Adams at the Friends of Photography. Gaining access to Mother Teresa during the first trip was much easier. She had just won the Nobel Prize and hadn’t yet been inundated by the press.
When I arrived for the first trip, I went to the motherhouse to meet Mother Teresa and get permission to photograph at her mission houses. She asked me who Muhammad Ali was. She wanted to know because he was coming to visit her in Calcutta. Then she wrote me a note that said, “Dear Sisters, Please allow Mary Mark to take photos. God bless you. Mother Teresa.” After that, I was able to visit all of her missions and take any pictures I wanted. This photograph is a picture of her at the Home for the Dying, feeding a dying man.
When I returned the next year, access was much more difficult. Mother Teresa had been photographed, interviewed, and filmed constantly. In order to get another permission note from her, I had to wait at the Calcutta airport for her plane to arrive from Bombay. It was on its way to Nepal. I met her at the gate.
Two months went by. She spent most of the time away from Calcutta and immediately went into seclusion when she returned. Then I heard she was leaving again for a trip around India. I knew that I needed to spend time with her to take more pictures and do an interview for the Friends of Photography book. I was worried and upset at the possibility of missing her.
The next morning in the lobby of my hotel I saw a Jesuit priest I knew. He noticed that I was upset and asked me if he could be of any help. I told him that Mother Teresa was leaving and I hadn’t had the chance to spend any time with her. He said, “You must be at the motherhouse for early-morning Mass tomorrow morning.” The next morning when I got there, the same Jesuit priest was giving a sermon to all of the nuns, including Mother Teresa. The topic of the sermon was the “importance of photography.” The following day, she left for Delhi and allowed me to travel with her for a week.

Margaret Joyce's First Communion, Travelers Encampment,Finglas, Ireland, 1991
This photograph was taken for the book A Day in the Life of Ireland. I spent some days photographing the Finglas Gypsies’ encampment. It was a crazy place. Most of the adults spent a lot of time drinking. As the day went by, they became more and more drunk. The children were often left to play on their own and take care of themselves.
Early on, I met Margaret Joyce and her family. I immediately fell in love with Margaret’s spirit, beauty, and energy. She was very excited about her First Communion. She had a beautiful dress and veil to wear for the occasion.
On the day of the Communion, her brother was drunk and passed out on the bed in their trailer. Her mother took her to the church. At the church, I sensed how different Margaret was from the other children. Many of the children probably came from poverty also, but somehow she was different. Margaret also sensed the difference. She felt isolated. Even though her dress was as beautiful as those of the other little girls, there was a roughness about Margaret’s appearance that instantly labeled her a “traveler.” This photograph was taken at he end of the day. I think it was a very hard day for her.

Kamla behind Curtains with a Customer, Falkland Road, Bombay, India, 1978
My first trip to India, in 1968, changed my life. I was overwhelmed. While I was in Bombay, someone took me to Falkland Road, the area where the least expensive prostitutes lived and worked. The houses they lived in were called cages because of the bars on the front doors. I swore that one day I would return and photograph Falkland Road. Over the next ten years, I visited Bombay several times but never had the opportunity to photograph Falkland Road.
In October of 1978, I finally convinced RoIf Gillhausen and Max Scheler at Stern magazine to give me the assignment. The magazine insisted that I work in color. Most of my work is in black-and-white, but working in color on this project was a great learning experience. Color was an important part of how these women decorated themselves.
During those years, one could work on a magazine assignment for long periods of time, so I spent three months on Falkland Road not only working on a magazine assignment but also making a book.
During the first few weeks, I just walked up and down the street and shot pictures. Rajesh Joshi, a young Indian cameraman, worked as my translator and assistant. In the beginning, the women threw garbage at me. Someone stole my address book from my back pocket, and abuses in a language that I didn’t understand were constantly screamed in my direction.
I persevered, and in time people got used to me walking up and down the street. This was only the first hurdle. I knew that I had to photograph the life inside the brothels. Eventually, one night, I ventured inside one of them. Each building on Falkland Road consisted of three floors with several rooms on each floor. Each room existed as its own brothel with its own madam. Between four and twelve girls worked in each brothel. The women were shocked to see me. There were abuses and shoes hurled in my direction. I thought I had ruined my chances to photograph, but the next day I returned, and after a while the women accepted me.
Some days later, my big breakthrough came when Saroja invited me into her brothel room for tea. Saroja was a respected madam with several girls of her own. When the other madams saw that Saroja had accepted me, they too accepted me.
I would spend hours in Saroja’s brothel room. She would cook, children and dogs would run in and out of the room--and business would go on as usual.  Customers would come and go.  In time, the regular customers got to know me.
The sex took place behind a brightly colored curtain that surrounded the bed.  A man would come in, a deal would be made with Saroja, then the girl and the customer would enter the bed and pull the curtains.
Rajesh would translate the voices from behind the curtains.  Once a customer said, “My glasses, my glasses, where are my glasses?” and a 13-year-old prostitute replied, “Come on now, behave--be proper.”
This is a photograph of Kamla, Saroja’s favorite girl, with a customer.  She was laughing and playing, and he just happened to put his hand on her face at the right moment.
Saroja threw me a party when my three months on Falkland Road were over.  She cooked a chicken biryani, which was delicious. We all hugged and cried.  During the party, customers came and went and business went on. When on of the regular customers witnessed our tears, he said, “Why are you crying?  You should go back to New York, find some nice girls, bring them here, and open your own brothel near Sarjoa on Falkland Road.”

Christopher with His Kitten, Sandgap, Kentucky, USA, 1990
In 1990 I did a series of pictures for Michele McNally at Fortune magazine on urban and rural poverty in America. I traveled all over the country. I went to Kentucky to photograph rural life. I found Kentucky to be the most strange and interesting place.
Catholic Social Services were a big help in giving me contacts in the community. They directed me to a country church where a guru-type figure preached every Sunday. He also fed several very poor families. The families at his church were extraordinary: they looked as if time had stopped for them in the 1930s. I was ready to start photographing the families, but for some reason the guru preacher took an immediate disliking to me. He threatened me. He told me to get out of his church and that he wasn’t going to help me. I’m still wondering what I did wrong.
Before I was forced out, I managed to meet a few people and get their addresses. I took this picture when I went to visit one of the families that I did get to meet. I rang the doorbell, and Christopher came out with his kitten to greet me. I was taken by how much Christopher and the kitten appeared to be the same person.

Husband and Wife, Harlan County, Kentucky, USA, 1971
I was in Harlan County, Kentucky, to photograph Appalachian women for an assignment I was given by Pat Carbine at Ms. Magazine.
I was on a road near a general store. Suddenly, an extraordinary looking couple came out of the store. They lived on a nearby mountaintop and had come down to stock up at the general store. They truly looked like a couple from an FSA photograph. They saw that I had a camera. The husband asked me if I would take a picture of him with his gun. I said, “Fine.” He jumped into a nearby tree and posed. I had taken about four frames of him alone when his wife slid into the picture beside him. He stayed there in the exact same position. He didn’t even bother to move his gun, which was pointed directly at her head.
I’ve always felt it’s best to let people do what they do rather than overdirect them. People sometimes do the most extraordinary things--much more interesting than I could ever dream up.

Gloria and Raja the Chimp, Gemini Circus, Perintalmanna, India, 1989
Ever since my first trip to India, I had wanted to photograph the Indian circus. Over the years, whenever I visited an Indian city, I would check to see if there was a circus in town. If there was, would go there to see the show and take pictures.
I first met Raja in Bombay in the early 1970s. He was a young chimp working with a circus. His act was wheeling a 2-year-old child in her pram around the circus ring. His job was humiliating, and I sensed that it embarrassed him.
Many years later, in 1989, Ray DeMoulin arranged for me to get a grant from Kodak to produce a book on the Indian circus. I met Raja again. He was now part of the Gemini Circus, which was performing in Perintalmanna. He immediately made eye contact with me. This may seem strange, but I felt he remembered me. This time he had a better job: his act was to ride a big motorcycle around the ring. I still felt that he had reservations about being a performer. Everyone was afraid of Raja because he was so large, but he was afraid of nothing, except the elephant. His trainer knew this, and whenever Raja was bad or escaped from his cage, his trainer would bring the elephant around to confront Raja, and Raja would cower.
I spent a week at the Gemini Circus. Raja and I became friends. Every morning I would come by to greet him in his cage. Whenever I was nearby, he would clap his hands as a command for me to come and see him. I would scratch his head, and he would give me a kiss.
The day I was leaving, Raja’s trainer was angry with him. He had purposely turned over his motorcycle in the middle of a performance and glared ferociously at the audience. They even had to bring in the elephant to control him. I wanted to see him and say good-bye, but his trainer said no. I think Raja knew that I was leaving. He started to cry and clap his hands. I went to his cage, scratched his head, and kissed him good-bye.
A week later, I heard that Raja had died of stomach complications. He was 22 years old. Chimpanzees in captivity do not live very long. The owner of the circus was beside himself with grief.
This photograph is of Raja with Gloria. She was a bird trainer who also loved Raja, almost as much as I did.

The Damm Family in their car, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1987
In 1987, Peter Howe, the director of photography at Life magazine, assigned me to photograph a homeless family. Anne Fadiman, a friend and a brilliant writer, went to California to find a family. The criteria was that we had to have full access. Anne found the Damm family, who were living at the Valley shelter in Los Angeles. They promised Anne full access.
I arrived in Los Angeles and later that night went to the shelter where the Damm family was staying. It was 4 AM., and they were all sound asleep. I started taking pictures immediately. That day they were being thrown out of the shelter and again forced to live in their car (along with their vicious dog, Runtley). We spent the next ten days following them around. Sometimes at night we parked our van alongside their car where they slept.
Linda and Dean allowed me to photograph every moment of their family’s lives, even the most painful times. Jesse and Crissy are Linda’s children from a previous relationship. The effect of the stress on the children was very apparent. When a social organization found a motel for the family to stay in for two nights, Crissy immediately lay down on the floor of the shower, and Jesse sobbed uncontrollably in a corner. All they could think of was how temporary this respite was and that soon they would be living in their car again.
While I was working with the Damm family, I thought about making a strong portrait of them in their car. It was impossible to take the photograph inside the car, because there just wasn’t enough space. Also, Runtley was a ferocious pit bull, and he would most surely bite me; the car was his territory. On the last day, I asked them to stop their car near a railroad track, and I made this picture. I took several frames, but when Crissy spontaneously reached up and gently touched Jesse’s face, I knew that was the photograph.

Crissy, Dean, and Linda Damm, Ilano, California, USA, 1994
In 1994 I returned to photograph the Damm family for David Friend at Life magazine. Their living conditions were even worse than when I first met them in 1987. Linda and Dean had two more children, Ashley, 6, and Summer, 4, and immediately noticed how much better Dean was to his own children. He always treated Crissy and Jesse terribly. He screamed at Jesse constantly and one day even shaved off the boy’s hair because he got some tar in it.
The whole family was squatting in a dilapidated, deserted ranch house. It was located in a canyon in the high desert about three hours outside of Los Angeles. Dean and Linda were heavily into drugs, mostly speed. The children were not in school. There was a general atmosphere of chaos and destruction.
The house was filthy. There was no running water and no electricity. Dean and Linda had adopted about twenty dogs. Some of them were fed, while the others roamed the hills killing rabbits or whatever they could find.
I stayed at a motel down the road. Very early every morning, I would arrive at the house. This photograph of Linda, Dean, and Crissy was taken one of those mornings. I was shocked at the scene I found. The expression on Crissy’s face said everything. I didn’t know what to do, but I decided I had to take this photograph. I later asked Crissy if Dean was abusing her. She vehemently denied it. I spoke to the social worker who refused to believe what I sensed.
Some months later, Crissy finally admitted that Dean was sexually abusing her. Linda took the kids and left him. What most disturbed Dean when he saw this photograph published was that his marijuana pipe and gear were visible in the frame.

Beautiful Emine Posing, Trabzon, Turkey, 1965
In 1965 I received a Fulbright scholarship to travel and photograph in Turkey. It was a dream come true. It would be the beginning of my life’s photographic journey.
I remember the day well. I had traveled to Trabzon, in eastern Turkey. Every morning I would go out in the streets and photograph all day. In a small town near the Trabzon harbor, I saw this child and thought she was very beautiful. She took me to her house. We had tea with her mother, and I made the photograph in the back courtyard of her small house. She was extremely seductive for a child so young.
This is probably the first strong photograph I made. It was a turning point for me. I thought about this girl for decades and wondered what had become of her. I hoped that some day I could find her again.
This past spring, I went to Istanbul for the first time since my Fulbright. I had been invited by the World Press Photo. I brought the photograph with me with the hope of finding this girl. I showed her photograph to a reporter and told him that I wanted to find her. The picture was published in a newspaper.
I returned to New York, and a few days later got an e-mail from the newspaper saying that they had been contacted by people who saw the photograph of the child in the newspaper. They recognized the young girl by a scar. They gave the newspaper her phone number, and the newspaper contacted her. She immediately remembered being photographed. She was 10 years old at the time. She said: “Suddenly, a well-dressed woman approached me, and with some body language, she explained that she wanted me to pose for her.” She also said that the dress she wore that day was new.
Her name is Emine Kalayli. She doesn’t speak English, but one of her daughters who does sent me an e-mail. She told me about her mother’s life. At the age of 14, Emine left her home to run off with her boyfriend and get married. Today she is 49, has two grown daughters, and lives with her husband in a town near Istanbul. He works in the car-cleaning business and is a member of the Lions Club.
I had spent so many years romanticizing about what I thought Emine’s life would be like now. I pictured her living in a small idyllic village somewhere in eastern Turkey, with sheep and cows. I have a hard time imagining her in an urban environment. The last e-mail from Emine’s daughter said that they are all waiting for me to come. I can’t wait to meet them.

Pro-Vietnam War Demonstrator, Manhattan, New York, USA, 1968
I moved to New York in 1966. It was an exciting time and I started going to demonstrations to photograph, as I still do now. Most often it’s not the march itself that is interesting to photograph but the periphery. In the 1960s and 1970s, the media did not have the power it has today; it was a much more honest time. You could feel that the pictures you were taking were real and that they were your pictures. Now, there are dozens of photographers and videographers at every event, and everything seems staged for the media. Even when I go away from the action and find a portrait to shoot, within a minute there are other photographers closing in to get the same picture. It’s very frustrating.
This photograph was taken at a Vietnam demonstration. Both sides were marching: those for the war and those against it. I ventured into the streets where the pro-war demonstrators were lining up, and I took this man’s picture. Suddenly, I felt a pain across my back. A paranoid pro-war protester had hit me with a big stick. I guess I didn’t look like I was on the right side. I just went on photographing.

Runaway Boy in a Bombay Café, Bombay, India, 1971
My first trip to India, in 1968, changed my life. I fell in love with the country. I was interested in every aspect of the life and culture. One thing that was very apparent in the late 1960s and early 1970s was the influx of young people who came to India to escape the ills of Western culture, find spirituality, and/or do drugs.  The foreign youth were very involved with everything that was Indian.  At that time, a variety of drugs were readily available, ranging from hashish to heroin and morphine.  it always seemed strange to me, because this did not have much to do with the real culture of Indian youth. Ninety percent of the people I saw doing drugs were foreign travelers.
I spent several months traveling around India, Nepal, and Afghanistan, photographing these strange young travelers from all over the world.  The dream for them was the romanticism of a beautiful and exotic Asia.  Once their money ran out, this romanticism faded quickly.  Life was tough and dangerous.  Many young people died in Asia during that period.  There is one image I will never forget, but I just couldn’t bring myself to photograph it.  I was in Benares in a boat, and when I arrived at the main ghat, there was a young foreign girl.  She was lying dead on the steps of the ghat.  She died from drowning in the Ganges River after taking too many drugs.  She lay there all day, and no one came to claim her.

Anna Mae the Elephant with Her Performing Partner, Margo Porter, UniverSoul Circus, Brooklyn, NY York, USA, 2003
Photographing the circus is one of my passions.  I had always wanted to photograph the UniverSoul Circus, the only African American-owned circus in the world.  In the spring of 2003, I suggested this story to Elisabeth Biondi and David Remnick at the New Yorker.
I made portraits of all the different characters, both human and animal.  Rocky the kangaroo was one of my favorites, but unfortunately I didn’t get a great picture of him. He had his boxing gloves on and madly hopped around with his eyes focused on me. I was intimidated. Kangaroos are very unpredictable and very powerful.
When Anna Mae the elephant walked into the ring, we made immediate eye contact. She looked at me and seemed to say, “Who are you? Are you important enough to take my picture? Are you going to give me a sugared doughnut?” I had heard that she expected doughnuts as payment each time she performed. I had worked with elephants before. They are intelligent and extremely sensitive. I took several pictures of Anna Mae: one of her sitting in the middle of the ring alone, one of her picking up Margo by her leg, and this one.
I could feel Anna Mae’s longing and sadness. She was 64 years old, which is quite old for an elephant in captivity. She seemed to be longing for something else. A few days after the shoot, we mailed her a case of doughnuts as a thank-you for working so hard.
Some months later, I was in Florida photographing a community of carnival workers. I told them about Anna Mae. They all knew her; it seems she is a famous elephant. They said to me, “Anna Mae is all business. If she doesn’t like you, she’ll pick you up and slam you against the wall. She’s done that to several people.” I was grateful that we had sent the doughnuts because I wouldn’t want to be on her bad side in case I photographed her again. An elephant never forgets.

Laurie in the Bathtub, Ward 81, Oregon State Hospital, Salem, Oregon, USA, 1976
Ward 81 was my first in-depth photographic project. In 1975 I worked on Milos Forman’s film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The film was shot at the Oregon State Mental Hospital. While working on the film, I met Dr. Dean Brooks, the director of the hospital. He gave me a tour of the facility. The most memorable ward he showed me was Ward 81, which was a maximum security ward for women. The women there were hospitalized because they were a danger either to themselves or to others.
Dr. Brooks and I communicated for a year. In February of 1976, he granted me permission to live at the hospital and photograph in Ward 81. Some months later, I returned to the Oregon State Mental Hospital with a writer named Karen Folger Jacobs. We slept in an old deserted ward next to Ward 81. We were each given a private cell and also a key to the ward. Each morning we would leave our cells, walk down the hallway, and enter the world of Ward 81.
During the six weeks we were there, we came to know the women very well. They learned to trust us. We got to know their moods. I was told to stay away from a woman who didn’t speak, named Verla. The staff said she was potentially dangerous. But I noticed that whenever I took a picture, Verla would be somewhere in the back of my frame waving and smiling. I took this as a hint that she wanted to be included in the photographs. After I started to photograph her, Verla and I became friends. I would sit with her during every meal. All the other patients and staff were afraid to sit with her in case she lost her temper and threw her tray at them.  Before long I could enter Verla’s room and phtoograph her even when her mood was very down. I learned on Ward 81 what access was. I learned how far you can go before you must put your camera down. Trust became a very important issue.
Even though the hospital discouraged it, the writer, Karen, felt better having our own passkey to the ward. One morning we were all sitting in the community room. Karen put her keys down on the table and started speaking with one of the patients. When she turned around, the keys were gone. I’ve never been more embarrassed. It turned out that the passkey to the ward was a passkey for the entire hospital. When you’re working on a project like this, it’s important not to disrupt the routine of an institution. The staff hated our presence anyway. Now we were really in deep trouble.
All the women were sent to their rooms. They had to stay there until the key was returned. They felt angry and betrayed and banged on their doors. I felt like an idiot. Finally, Laurie, a sweet, soft-spoken girl, admitted to taking the keys. She looked at me, shrugged her shoulders, and said, “The keys are the name of the game, Mary Ellen.” After that, Karen and I returned our ward keys to the hospital.

Jeanette in Labor, Cumberland Hospital, Brooklyn, New York, USA, 1978
At the Puerto Rican Day Parade in 1978, I was walking through Central Park taking pictures. I saw Jeanette Alejandro and her boyfriend, Victor Orellanes, sitting on a bench with lots of balloons. What was intriguing about Jeanette was that she was the youngest-looking pregnant teenager I had ever seen. In truth, she was 15 and Victor was 14, but they looked even younger. I asked her for her phone number and called her about a week later.
For the next four months, several times a week, I went to Brooklyn to photograph Jeanette, Victor, and their extended families. Fred Ritchin, the picture editor at the New York Times Magazine saw the pictures and published them. I always knew that the most important moments to capture in this project would be when Jeanette went into labor and gave birth.
I continued to photograph Jeanette’s pregnant life. I followed her and Victor to local voodoo ceremonies, in the park, and at Coney Island. I followed them at home and all around their Brooklyn neighborhood. I witnessed tearful physical fights between Jeanette and her sisters. I saw Jeanette get larger and larger with her pregnancy and feel more and more isolated from Victor, her family, and her friends. Eventually, she adopted a puppy and practiced bottlefeeding on him.
As Jeanette’s due date came closer, I became more and more anxious about reaching the hospital in time for the labor and birth. I gave my home number to everyone and promised a twenty-dollar reward to the person who would call me the moment she went into labor. I checked my answering machine constantly. Finally, one day, there were about twelve messages waiting for me. I immediately realized that Jeanette was probably having her baby. When I arrived at Cumberland Hospital, all of her friends and family were waiting for their twenty dollars.
Jeanette’s labor was very dramatic. She suffered a lot. I don’t think she was prepared for the ordeal. Chastity was a big baby: she weighed 7 pounds 11 ounces.
Jeanette proved to be a natural mother. She moved in for a while with Victor’s family, but that didn’t work, so she came back to live with her own family. A few years ago, I made contact with Jeanette again. She was living on Staten Island. She and Victor were no longer together, but they are still friends. Victor is a good father to Chastity. Chastity was grown up and going to college. Jeanette had two other children who are not Victor’s children: a daughter who is extremely bright and beautiful and a young son who was the perfect little handsome macho boy. She told me that she hasn’t necessarily been lucky in love, but she has been blessed with wonderful children.
Photographing Jeanette was a great learning experience for me. I learned how important it is to stay with a subject and become a part of his or her daily life. I also learned that you can capture more intimate moments by blending into the background. This project was a turning point for me.

Ahaza Desta Giving Birth, Korem, Ethiopia, 1985
In 1985 John Loengard, photo editor at Life magazine, sent me to Ethiopia to photograph the famine. Once in Addis Ababa, the writer and I got our permits and flew to Korem. We stayed in Korem, the city about a mile from a refugee camp, for about one week. We had initially thought we would go to several other camps, but we got to know the people in this camp well, and the area was so interesting that we decided to go back to Addis Ababa, renew our permits, and return.
We hired two men in the camp to help us. Every day, early in the morning, we would meet them and walk to the camp. They were our guides and would also help me carry my equipment. We became friends. They were waiting for us when we came back on our second visit; I felt like I was seeing old friends.
Most of the refugee families lived in huge communal tents and slept on cots. Some of the families had smaller individual tents. There was also a large tent that served as a morgue. The recently dead were brought there, washed, and wrapped in a shroud. It was an extremely emotional and very sad experience for everyone.
Every day I would walk around the camp, visiting tent after tent. After the second week, I knew many of the families. It made it even more painful when a family member died. I saw children who three days earlier had been smiling and very much alive suddenly fall ill and die. Because many of the families knew me, I felt like less of an intruder when I photographed them, even during the most difficult and emotional situations.
The camp was enormous, and in the evenings it had an eerie atmosphere, full of smoke and sounds. Late one day, I discovered a tent that I never knew existed. It was a place for women who were about to give birth. I saw a woman lying on the floor, covered with a blanket. She was delivering her baby. What struck me was how much the event was totally devoid of emotion. She didn’t cry in pain or smile when the baby was born. She just lay there passively. It was as if all of her emotions and energy were drained by her terrible plight. There was nothing left anymore. It was a scene I will never forget.

Amanda and Her Cousin Amy, Valdese, North Carolina, USA, 1990
In 1990, Peter Howe at Life magazine sent me to North Carolina to photograph a special school for children with problems. The school was a very strange place because all of the twenty or so children were in the same classroom and their problems ranged from mild behavior instability to severe schizophrenia.
Nine-year-old Amanda was the most interesting child in the class. She was my favorite child. Amanda was very intelligent and very naughty. One day I followed her home on the school bus. When the bus stopped at her house, she dashed ahead of me and ran into a nearby wooded area. I continued to follow her into the woods and eventually found her sitting in an old stuffed chair having a cigarette. She thought that I would reprimand her since I was an adult. But I said nothing.
The following Sunday, I spent the day at home with Amanda and her mother. Amanda totally controlled her mother. She constantly gave her orders and proceeded to put on her mother’s nail polish and makeup. Amanda smoked openly in front of her. Her 8-year-old cousin Amy was coming over, and she was very excited. All day long, Amanda and her cousin played like children. Every forty-five minutes or so, Amanda would take a break to have a cigarette. Her mother could say nothing; Amanda was the boss.
Just before I left, I looked for Amanda to say good-bye. I found her and Amy in the backyard. They were in a children’s inflatable pool. Amanda was taking her regular cigarette break.

Santa Claus Having Lunch, Manhattan, New York, USA, 1963
I took this photograph when I was in graduate school. A great photographer, Bruce Davidson, had come to the Annenberg School to teach a workshop. We were each told to choose a project. It was Christmastime, and I chose to photograph Santa Claus. I took the  train to New York and spent the night at an old hotel where the Volunteers of America housed their Santa Clauses each season.
Early the next morning, I had breakfast with many Santas and later followed several of them who were stationed in the Brooklyn area. This particular Santa was on his lunch break. He had a cigarette, of course. In 1963 everybody smoked-even Santa Claus.

Transvestite in Her Hotel Room, Manhattan, New York, USA, 1968
In 1967 I photographed the Miss All-American Drag Beauty Queen Contest in New York City. There were several days of preparation queens around the city.
This was a very different era. There was only one film crew, making a documentary called The Queen, and just a few other photographers. If this contest happened today, a time when most events exist only for the press, it would be heavily covered. Because there were so few photographers there, I had intimate access to the transvestites.
I had just moved to New York. I was really excited because I had a new Leica camera system. In total I had two camera bodies and three lenses. Before the contest, I went out with some of the transvestites to a lingerie shop on lower Fifth Avenue. One of the transvestites took us there in her car. She dropped us all off at the lingerie shop and said she would wait for us in the car. I decided that I didn’t want to carry all my equipment; I only wanted to take one camera and one lens. I asked if I could leave my camera bag in the car with her.
Inside the shop I took several photographs of three transvestites trying on brassieres, panties, and negligees. It was exciting.
Once they purchased their panties and bras, we returned to the waiting car. The transvestite who had waited for us in the car had a disturbed expression. She said, “I just left the car for a few minutes. And when I came back, your camera bag was gone.” I was heartbroken. At first I believed her story. Later I realized that she had most likely pawned my camera and lenses while we were in the shop. I was angry with her and felt betrayed, but I realized that I had only myself to blame. I was now a working photographer, and I had to take full responsibility for my equipment.
This photograph was taken in an old run-down hotel on Broadway. All the contestants lived there during the contest. I spent a lot of time going from room to room. On the day of the contest, everyone was extremely nervous. When I photographed Miss Harlow, she was more nervous than most, but she went on to win the contest.

Rat and Mike with a Gun, Seattle, Washington, USA, 1983
While working for Life magazine on the street kids story in Seattle, I was shown an old abandoned hotel where some of the kids squatted, specifically Rat and Mike. They were wellknown street hustlers.
One afternoon the writer and I went into the old hotel to look for Rat and Mike. It was really frightening and eerie. It appeared that several homeless people lived there, each choosing a separate room where they scattered their few possessions. It was the middle of the day, so the hotel was empty. We looked for the room where the two boys lived. We finally came across a room with two sleeping bag remnants of junk food, and a big W. C. Fields poster on the wall. There was a note pinned to the door: BACK IN A FEW DAYS--MIKE AND RAT. We left a note for them saying we would return.
A few days later, very early in the morning, we came back to find them. It was 7 A.M. Rat and Mike were tucked inside their sleeping bags, sound asleep. We woke them up and gave them the coffee and doughnuts that we had brought with us. They had just come back from a trip to Sacramento, where Rat’s family lived. They had lots dirty clothes and wanted to go to the Laundromat that day. We offered them a ride. They were both totally charming and intriguing especially the smaller boy called Rat. He was 15 years old but Iooked about 12. They threw bags of dirty clothes in the trunk of our car.
When we arrived at the Laundromat, I offered to help them carry their clothes inside. As I was lifting a bag out of the trunk, I noticed a gun underneath one of the bags. I was very concerned.
When they finished their laundry and carried their things to the car  I asked Rat about the gun. He nonchalantly said, “That’s our gun. We stole it last week while robbing a house.” Mike picked it up and put it inside his jacket. That’s when I took this picture.
As an afternote, soon after Martin finished making Steetwise, Rat was arrested on drug charges. He spent a year in jail. When he got out, we saw him again. He had changed dramatically; I hardly recognized him. He was no longer a small 15-year-old boy, looking young for his age. He was a grown-up man, over six feet tall and seasoned by a year in jail. To be honest, for the first time I was afraid of him.

Arjun with His Chimpanzee Mira, Great Royal Circus, Gujarat, India, 1989
I met Arjun at the Great Royal Circus in India. He was a great chimpanzee trainer. Mira was one of his favorite chimpanzees. She loved him very much and was extremely protective of him, as you can see in this photograph.
This picture has special significance for me because right after I took it, Mira bit my hand. I think she was jealous of all the attention I was getting from Arjun. He loved to have his picture taken. He was proud of his work and wanted me to photograph him with each of his chimpanzees. Right after taking Arjun and Mira’s picture, I went to shake Arjun’s hand and thank him. Suddenly, there were Mira’s big flat teeth biting my hand. I was very surprised that she bit me. I immediately went to a doctor, who dressed the wound. He suggested a rabies shot. Later I asked Arjun if I should get the shot. He was so insulted at the suggestion that his beautiful Mira would have rabies he nearly cried, and I never mentioned it again.
Arjun was one of the first people I saw the next year when I returned to the Royal Circus. He was sitting beside the huge training cage where he worked with his chimpanzees. Mira was inside the cage, and she waved to me in a friendly manner. Arjun said, “See, Mary Ellen? She’s forgiven you. She wants to be your friend. Go and shake her hand.” As I approached the cage to shake Mira’s hand, I noticed that she took a strange position with her butt up in the air at the back end of the cage. I was just about to put my arm inside the cage to shake hands when I saw her running directly at me. I realized she was charging me. She wanted my arm and my hand to bite again. I quickly jumped back from the cage and avoided her attack.
She was so furious. She screamed and jumped up and down for several minutes. Arjun had to enter the cage to calm her down. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. Now I understand why most of the chimpanzee trainers I have met over the years are missing fingers. Never trust a chimp.

In many ways, it was really difficult looking back and remembering all the amazing experiences involved with taking these pictures. It was even more difficult than I could have imagined. I have led such an incredibly rich life as a photographer. At times I have taken it for granted. I was sure the continuous support for documentary work would last forever, but it didn't. I could never have imagined the changes I have seen in this industry. On the other hand, I'm very grateful that I had the opportunity to make these photographs and that they exist.
I am also lucky that I was able to find sponsorship for personal projects that were not necessarily news oriented and certainly not commercial. I received some of the support from grants, but most of this work came out of collaboration with excellent photography editors and art directors at magazines and great book editors and publishers. More recently, I have had to finance some of the projects myself. I have paid for this by doing more commercial work; I don't mind doing this. Sometimes it's very challenging, and I've learned a lot technically. The important thing is that I can continue to produce my own work.
The best advice I can give to young documentary photographers who are starting their careers is to never lose sight of their goals and to follow their hearts.


I grew up looking at photographs. I would come home from school, play with my dog, Mickey, and go through old scrapbooks with pictures of family, on vacation, at weddings, and just snapshots in general. I was fascinated by that sense of time stopping and a moment being preserved forever. I was also mesmerized by how people changed over time with age and how the dress and customs of another era were so different.

When I was about 9 years old, I received a Brownie camera. I took pictures of my friends at school clowning around and also pictures of my friends at summer camp. I couldn't wait until the week went by and I could pick up my photographs at the drugstore. Many years later, some of these pictures appeared in the Mike Nichols film Carnal Knowledge as props for a slide show that Jack Nicholson's character presented.

I actually did not consider becoming a "real" photographer until much later. As an undergraduate, I studied painting and art history at the University of Pennsylvania and considered becoming an architect. For years I was really lost and didn't know which direction to go. I still have dreams about it today: finishing college and not knowing how I'm going to support myself or what I'm going to do or where I'm going to live. All of this changed for me in 1963, when I received a scholarship to the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, which, at that time, offered a major in photography. From the moment I picked up a camera for my first school assignment, there was no turning back. I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.

I remember the first time I went out on the street alone with one of the cameras that the school loaned to me. It was a small rangefinder camera called a Retina. I found some people on a busy street and started taking pictures. I loved the contact with people that the camera gave me. I was immediately challenged by the idea of expressing my feelings through my photographs. I walked all over Philadelphia, day after day, continually taking pictures.

My interest as a photographer has always been to photograph people. I dreamed about all the places I would travel to and all the people I would meet in their varied social situations. I wanted to tell their stories with my photographs. One of the first stories I did was about a convent for disabled nuns. The convent was a very beautiful, quiet, and spiritual place. I remember it was wintertime and the nuns had a snowball fight, crutches and all. I guess I was always interested in the underdog. I wanted to be a voice for the overlooked and show the reality of their sometimes difficult situations.

In 1965 I received a Fulbright scholarship to photograph in Turkey. After the Fulbright, I moved to New York City and began to work as a freelance photographer. I worked for Look, Life, the Evergreen Review, and a Catholic magazine called Jubilee. My inspirations were great photographers like Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, André Kertész, Lisette Model, Helen Levitt, and Irving Penn.

The state of photography, especially magazine photography, was so different then—it was very exciting. Documentary photography was respected and given a real place. Magazines looked for interesting and meaningful stories about real people around the world. The cult of celebrity had not yet been invented. The pictures themselves were not retouched. Today it's very hard to know what to believe. Cut-and-paste rules, inches are taken off bodies, heads are moved around, and the computer acts as a new and improved vanishing cream. Now the primary interest seems to be surface; content and reality are seldom seen. This new field of photography, "photo illustration," has replaced documentary photography in magazines.

Most of the photographs in this book came out of editorial assignments and grants. At certain moments, it is painful to look at many of these pictures because it reminds me of a time when this kind of work was supported and published. It makes me worry that I will never have the opportunity again to pursue what I love most—taking photographs of subjects I feel passionate about. But even though magazine photography has changed, I don't regret making the choices I have made. I followed my dreams and passions, embraced reality, and made some images that I hope will last forever.

When you're editing, it's extremely difficult to separate what is a really great photograph from a strong memory. I believe that great photographs stand on their own and do not need any explanation. Sometimes you can fall in love with an image because of the memory it evokes. I had the help of excellent editors when going through the thousands of pictures I have taken over the past forty years. In the end, I had to be very tough on myself and pick only the strongest images. The 134 photographs in this book represent what I feel is my best work.

People often ask me what makes a great image. That's an almost impossible question to answer. Sometimes the obvious can make a great image. Sometimes a photograph works because of its subtlety or what is excluded from the frame. For me, a great image involves a combination of strong content and excellent design.

Another question I am often asked is "How did you get this photograph?" The story behind a picture can be very revealing. I decided to go through these photographs and pick several of the images that had the most compelling backstories as a way of explaining both my experiences and how some of my favorite photographs were made.

In many ways, it was really difficult looking back and remembering all the amazing experiences involved with taking these pictures. It was even more difficult than I could have imagined. I have led such an incredibly rich life as a photographer. At times I have taken it for granted. I was sure the continuous support for documentary work would last forever, but it didn't. I could never have imagined the changes I have seen in this industry. On the other hand, I'm very grateful that I had the opportunity to make these photographs and that they exist.

I am also lucky that I was able to find sponsorship for personal projects that were not necessarily news oriented and certainly not commercial. I received some of the support from grants, but most of this work came out of collaboration with excellent photography editors and art directors at magazines and great book editors and publishers. More recently, I have had to finance some of the projects myself. I have paid for this by doing more commercial work; I don't mind doing this. Sometimes it's very challenging, and I've learned a lot technically. The important thing is that I can continue to produce my own work.

The best advice I can give to young documentary photographers who are starting their careers is to never lose sight of their goals and to follow their hearts.