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The Damm Family in Their Car, Los Angeles, California

Mary Ellen Mark, American, 1940 - 2015

Photograph taken in Los Angeles, California, United States, North and Central America


Gelatin silver print

Image: 14 5/8 x 14 3/4 inches (37.1 x 37.5 cm) Sheet: 19 7/8 x 16 inches (50.5 x 40.6 cm)

© Mary Ellen Mark

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Marion Boulton Stroud, 2000

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In 1987 Mary Ellen Mark worked on assignment for Life magazine. Her job was to spend 10 days with a family who were living in their car in Los Angeles during their fifth week of homelessness. The car—a 1971 Buick Skylark missing its hood and several windows—shuttled the Damms between welfare agencies, schools, motels, and shelters. The car was central to their daily routine, and a dependable fixture that helped hold the family together. In this photograph, parents Linda and Dean, children Crissy and Jesse, and dog Runtley huddle together in front of the bags that hold everything they own. Although they are in a difficult situation, they share loving gestures and confidently look the photographer in the eye.