Photographer Mary Ellen Mark passed away on Monday.
I have my own Mary Ellen Mark story, which I had forgotten about till looking at her stunning body of work today. I met MEM once
in an abortion clinic. I accompanied my girlfriend when she needed an abortion.
We were both 19 or 20. I sat in the waiting room and MEM approached me and
introduced herself and said she was doing a piece on young girls getting
abortions. I told her that I was not getting one but I knew who she was. I
happened to be in college and was a photography major. The film Streetwise had
come out recently. I told her that people often told me that I looked like the
girl Tiny who was on the poster for the film. I indeed did look like her and
had the air of an at-risk youth, despite my college scholarship to NYU. That
was why MEM approached me.
MEM asked me what I thought of the film and
I told her the truth, that I did not see it because I had heard from someone
that Tiny had been filmed at the gyn without knowing it. (I had been told that
by a girl who was sleeping with my boyfriend. We had an open relationship. I
had mentioned wanting to see the film and like MEM’s work and the girl involved
with my boyfriend said that they had filmed this girl Tiny
without telling her. I decided not to see the film because of that.)
Anyway MEM told me that that was not
accurate. That Tiny was aware of everything and consented to everything and
that the film makers would not have filmed her without full consent. So I said
that I would go see the film. She took my address and shortly after I received
one of the posters in the mail, signed. I hung on my wall for years.
That was it. Mary Ellen Mark was in the
streets and in the trenches, calm cool and collected, communicating and
shooting, walking the walk, the real deal all the way. She made an amazing body
of work and will be missed. Peace to her family and
There is one image in particular in the
slide show that gives me chills because it is of a boy that looks just like my
son will look when he gets a little older. The photograph shows this boy with a
friend who is holding a gun, about to tuck it into his coat. I plan to raise my
boy in a different world that that and pray I succeed.