Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia, PA

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Mary Ellen Mark: Photographs


"Mary Ellen Mark: Photographs" is the first major exhibition to focus exclusively on the acclaimed photographer's extensive American work. On view in the Berman and Stieglitz Galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from May 13 through August 6, 2000, 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." (left: Tiny in Her Halloween Costume, Seattle WA, 1983, Copyright Mary Ellen Mark)

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 "Mary Ellen Mark: Photographs," her 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. (left: Central Park, New York City, 1967, gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches, Collection of Mary Ellen Mark, Copyright Mary Ellen Mark, 382-1999-2)

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 inspired Streetwire, an Academy Award-winning film produced by the photographer and directed by her husband, the filmmaker Martin Bell. (left: Jeff Gilman and Stacy Spivey, McKee, Kentucky, 1990, gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches, Collection of Mary Ellen Mark, Copyright Mary Ellen Mark, 382-1999-4)

"Mary Ellen Mark: Photographs" is organized by Aperture Foundation, New York. Michael E. Hoffman, Executive Director of Aperture Foundation, and Melissa Harns, Senior Editor, are guest curators of the exhibition. The accompanying 151-page catalogue, published by Aperture, features exquisite tri-tone reproductions of the works comprising the exhibition.

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