Friday, October 3, 2008


The Damm Family, 1987
Crissy, six; Jesse, four; their mother, Linda, 27, a former nursing-home aide; and their stepfather, Dean, 33, an ex-trucker.
Mary Ellen Mark

I went to an artist talk last night by Mary Ellen Mark.
The talk coincided with an exhibition of her Twins Series. Mark went through the images she has created over the last 40 years and they are remarkable. Mark approaches all of her work as an artist, the capturing of reality being her main goal in her photography. Over her career she has been able to both shoot for herself as well as create searing and memorable stories through her documentary photography. A regular contributor to Life Magazine and others, this picture is from a story about "A Week in the Life of a Homeless Family"
I highly recommend reading it. When this image was taken, the Damm family was living in their car. Mark spends all of her time with her subjects when she works, getting to know them, and she follows many of them over the years. Often times helping to support them later on in life. (The young boy ended up needing a lawyer when he got himself into trouble years later).

It was very interesting to hear Mark's take on the status of magazines and photography today. She did a lot of photojournalism for magazines over the years but finds that more recently they have no interest in honest, realistic portrayals of life. They prefer what she refers to as "illustration", in essence, mock-ups of reality. They want created images (what she would consider distorted) in order to tell the story they want to tell instead of the reality that is looking them in the face. It's interesting also to hear her sort of imply that this is the fault of digital photography in a way (she surely blames society's obsession with celebrity too but...). She has no interest in digital herself.

Anyway I could go on. Check out Mark's website for more images, she has a love for the circus around the world, shooting circuses in India, Mexico, NYC and Vietnam. She also has a book coming out soon with her film photography. Another way of making a living, she spent time on the sets of major films, shooting actors and directors off camera. A quick survey of this work shows a wonderful entry into more than the film. Apparently it is much more difficult to do this as movie have gotten more complicated and glitzy and access has become limited. Her website has a section on celebrities, with portraits from Luis Bunuel to Donald Sutherland. Her first film was a Satyricon, by Fellini.

1 comment:

DopeTasticQ said...

the Damm's story was a well worth read. Thanks!