–Mary Ellen Mark
–Mary Ellen Mark
Robert Frank, The Americans
For this week, I am recommending a book that I have not reviewed here on the site.
Mary Ellen Mark: Ward 81 is a collection of photographs, with captions describing their content focusing on the lives of women in a mental ward. At the time, this was the only locked ward for women; they were considered “dangerous to themselves or to others.” After 36 days, Mary Ellen Mark produced this book of photographs, along with collaborators who assisted her in the writing and production process.
We often read, watch, hear about the terrible state of mental asylums, prisons, etc. but it is not often that we feel like we can visualize one, or understand one. This book does the best possible job of showing what it is like. One of the most moving parts of Mary Ellen Mark’s work is the compassion you can feel from her photographs; she cares about these people, she cares about this work. After her death, I hope that more people will recognize the power in her work, and the power in photojournalism.
You can pick up Mary Ellen Mark: Ward 81 at Amazon.
For those who are not lovers of photography (do those people exist?), I am recommending another book that I have not yet reviewed here, Their Eyes Were Watching God. This book is a classic of black women American history. It is a tale of the capacity of human spirit to heal, a tale of finding one’s self and a celebration of womanhood. It is one of my favorite novels of all time, and I highly suggest it to anyone who has not read it. Also to people who have, read it again. Their Eyes Were Watching God is beautifully written, with prose that flows so seamlessly throughout the novel.
Have any suggestions for me? Let me know if you read any of them!
If many of you do not know Mary Ellen Mark she is a brilliant, brilliant photographer who focused her energy on telling the stories of people who would not otherwise be known to the world. Photojournalism is a really hard subject and faces a lot of scrutiny; critics suggest that photojournalism does not capture people in their completeness, but rather captures more of the photographer’s view of the people. A fair concern that Mary Ellen Mark in her work did a fabulous job of showing that a photographer can capture a people. She got to know her subjects despite the difficulty in getting to know people so different from her own self and her works will live on, inspiring other photojournalists to show the compassion and patience she showed when capturing every one of her photographs.
(Mary Ellen Mark, in LIFE magazine)
There are many ways to tell a story, besides through novels. A good photograph and a great photographer can tell a story about life that pushes people to compassion and understanding. In the age of digital photography, we often focus on beautiful landscapes, clear pictures. Mary Ellen Mark was a traditional photographer (not anti-technology) who did not use photoshop but stuck to her original film prints. She attempted to capture the world as it was. Check out her prints!