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Mary Ellen Mark: Photographs is the first major exhibition to focus exclusively on the acclaimed photographer's extensive American work. The exhibition will feature some 141 black-and-white photographs, many of which have never been exhibited. Included are powerful photographs from several of Mark's well-known projects, including "Streetwise," "Beauty Pageants," "Rural Poverty," "Texas Rodeos," "The Damm Family," and "Christian Bikers."
Unsurpassed in bringing icon-like presence to her subjects, whether "everyday" or unusual, Mark (born 1940) was recently voted "Most Influential Woman Photographer of All Time" by readers of American Photo magazine. In this exhibition Mark's empathic and penetrating vision is revealed in photographs that range from poignant images of a family living in its car or the devastated lives of women in a mental ward, to the exploits of Miami gigolos, spring-break revelers, prom-goers, cross-dressers, and trick-or-treaters.
Viewed together, Mark's images form an arresting view of the United States, from innocuous backyard activities to the harshness of street life and the quirkiness of its subcultures. Mary Ellen Mark: Photographs presents a compelling look at a vast and endlessly fascinating country, from Coney Island to Daytona and Miami. Sometimes sad, sometimes funny, occasionally shocking and bizarre, Mark touches on the essence of American life, and looks for the common threads that connect us all.
Mark studied painting and art history at the University of Pennsylvania, and photojournalism at Penn's Annenberg School of Communications. She has published 11 books, and lectures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University. For almost three decades, Mark has traveled extensively, and her images of the world's diverse cultures have become landmarks in the field of documentary photography. Her portrayals of Mother Theresa, Indian circuses, and brothels in Bombay were the product of many years of work in India (Mark's photographs were featured in India: A Celebration of Independence, 1947-1997, a major touring exhibition organized by the Alfred Stieglitz Center of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which was on view at the Museum from July 6 through August 31, 1997). Mark's photo essay on runaway children in Seattle was one of the inspirations for Streetwise, an Academy Award-nominated film directed by her husband, the filmmaker Martin Bell.