The Photography of Mary Ellen Mark

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Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

Sarah Milroy writes, “In the world of photography, there are many kinds of professional practice: the fine art practice of making prints for galleries and museums; the technical practices of medical and forensic photography; advertising and fashion photography, where the image maker is implicated in the business of manipulating desire; and photojournalism — where aesthetics and photography’s capacity for bearing witness are married together. Most photographers tend to stick to one discipline – indeed doing otherwise can carry the stain of contamination.”

Mary Ellen Mark straddles between the photography she does for her own artistic satisfaction and her commercial work for glossy publications like the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and People.

Her Ward 81 project is of the former, a photographic documentation of life in a maximum-security mental health facility that she had visited back in 1976, an offshoot of the latter, of her involvement with the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Her photos of Ward 81 engage the soul, not just the eye and the mind.

Ward 81 ends today at Toronto’s Stephen Bulger Gallery, but some of the photos from the exhibit may still be viewed online. And Sarah Milroy’s article on the photography of Mary Ellen Mark is an engaging weekend read.

Photo: Mary Ellen Mark, Courtesy of CTVglobemedia

Published by Chris Malinao

Chris teaches Lightroom as workflow software to photography students at the FPPF, Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation. He also teaches smartphone photography.