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Mary Ellen Mark, A Life Defending Humanity

Mary Ellen Mark, A Life Defending Humanity

This month, German publisher Steidl is releasing an exceptional book on the career of American photographer Mary Ellen Mark. For 60 years, she has worked to highlight the richness of our cultures and the diversity of our society.

“I didn’t have the happiest home life or childhood, so I think that gave me a feeling of justice and passion for people that don’t have all the breaks. I think it was important to me to be free and wander the world and not have a family. I don’t have kids,” said Mary Ellen Mark.

Crissy, Jesse, Linda, 152 and Dean Damm in their car. Los Angeles, 1987 © Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

Mary Ellen Mark’s empathy, humanity, penetrating vision, and commitment to those she photographed and their stories distinguishes both her work, and her voice as a photographer. Everything about her work is personal – never judgmental – intimate, while at the same time speaking to larger truths about otherness, poverty, and class. There is nothing casual or unprepared about Mark’s approach; she unfailingly empathized with the people and places she photographed.

Mother Teresa feeding a man at the Home for the Dying, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Kolkata, India, 1980 © Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

Conceived and edited by film director Martin Bell, Mary Ellen Mark’s husband and collaborator for 30 years, The Book of Everything celebrates in over 600 images and diverse texts Mark’s extraordinary life, work and vision. From 1963 to her death in 2015, Mark, who temporarily became a Magnum photographer in 1977, told brilliant, intimate, provocative stories of characters whom she met and engaged with—often in perpetuity. Stories who appeared in the most important magazines such as LIFE, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker or Vanity Fair.

For this comprehensive book of 880 pages, the editor has selected images from Mark’s thousands of contact-sheets and chromes—from over two million frames in total. These include icons of documentary photography, her own choices, those published once and since lost in time, as well as some of her as yet unpublished preferences. The editor complements these with a few selections of his own.

Laurie in the bathtub of Ward 81, Oregon State Hospital. 182 Salem, Oregon, 1976 © Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

Along with Mary Ellen Mark’s pictures made in compelling, often tragic circumstances, The Book of Everything includes recollections from friends, colleagues and many of those she photographed. Mark’s own thoughts reveal doubts and insecurities, her ideas about the individuals and topics she depicted, as well as the challenges of the business of photography.

“I think if you don’t come from a happy home, maybe you don’t want to tie yourself down. I always wanted to be completely free. Even from the time that I was like eight years, seven years old, I remember walking home from grade school thinking, When am I going to get out of here? I’ve got to be free. So the freedom was always a major thought for me, a major plan.”

Brooke and Billy at Gibbs Senior High School prom. St. Petersburg, Florida, 1986 © Mary Ellen Mark Foundation
Cover: Amanda and her cousin Amy. Valdese, North Carolina, 1990 © Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

Mary Ellen Mark: The Book of Everything


295,00 $ US / 300,00 €

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