Mary Ellen Mark

Andy Dunlap and Helen Alston, Charlottesville, Va., from the Prom series, 2008
Tabitha and Tiffany Good, from theTwins series, 2001

Mary Ellen Mark (born March 1940 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania US – died May 2015 in New York City). She developed an interest in photography at a young age and went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a degree in painting and art history.
Mary Ellen Mark was a renowned American photographer known for her powerful and intimate portraits of people from all walks of life. She began her career in the 1960s, working as a freelance photographer for magazines such as Life, Look, and The New Yorker.
Mark’s work often focused on marginalized communities, such as the homeless, prostitutes, and mental patients. Her photographs were characterized by their raw and unflinching portrayal of her subjects, capturing their humanity and dignity in the face of adversity.
One of Mark’s most famous projects was her documentation of the lives of the street children in Seattle, which culminated in the publication of her book «Streetwise» (1988) and the subsequent documentary film of the same name. The project brought attention to the plight of homeless youth and helped to raise awareness of the issue.
Throughout her career, Mark’s work was exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide, and she received numerous awards and honors for her contributions to the field of photography. She was a member of Magnum Photos, a prestigious photography cooperative, and her photographs are held in numerous prestigious collections. Mark also worked as a teacher and mentor, sharing her knowledge and expertise with aspiring photographers.

In 1995 Mark began working with the Polaroid 20 x 24 camera (with film plates that measure a nominal 20 by 24 inches (51 cm × 61 cm)) – a massive apparatus almost six feet tall and weighing 240 pounds. According to John Reuter, a former Polaroid employee, only six cameras were built between 1976–78; five remain in use. Mary Ellen Mark has worked with the camera frequently for commissions and her own projects as the series “Twins” (2003) and “Prom” for which she and husband and filmmaker Martin Bell traveled around the country and documented proms from 2006 to 2009. About the 20×24 camera she said: “It’s just an amazing camera that captures incredible detail. You can’t pick it up and take a snapshot with it.”[1] With regard to her Twins series, she explains the advantage of the large format camera: “I could show, in precise detail, not only how much twins are alike but the subtle qualities that often make them so different.”[2]

[1] (Status 10 July 202

[2] (Status 10 July 2023)

Polaroid books

Mary Ellen Mark. Twins
Aperture 2005
ISBN-10: 1931788197
ISBN-13: ‎978-1931788199

Mary Ellen Mark. Prom
J. Paul Getty Museum 2012
ISBN-10: 9781606061084
ISBN-13: ‎978-1606061084