Iconic images by documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark, who has died at 75

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The documentary photographer who is best known for her haunting portraits of people who live on the edge of society died in New York this weekend.

Love her stuff, but that first photo’s “Love it or leave it!” couple strike me as people who live right in the heart of American society.

Her work is part Diane Arbus, part Robert Frank, but she never seems to have developed her own thing the way those two did. Still, I find a lot of her shots totally captivating. Very sad to see her go.


This is sad. I was a grip/electric on American Heart that was based on her work with street kids in Seattle.

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The framing, Oh My God the framing. I doubt it happened this way, but when I see photos like that, I like to think people like Mark picked up a camera when they were three and started composing perfect shots with no training or practice needed. Beautiful, haunting work–sad to see her go.

I listened to a radio interview of a famous photog the other day…can’t recall his name (Steve Northup, maybe?) but he shot extensively in Vietnam, and he pointed out how a photography is like time distilled into a strong drink, or for that matter, a punch in the face. Once a person makes that connection, WHAM!, and they’ll never unsee that work again. It almost, almost makes me want to go back to the old 35mm b/w camera…but not quite.

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