Remembering Powerhouse Photographer Mary Ellen Mark

Photographer Mary Ellen Mark in 2013.Todd Williamson/Invision for Leica/AP

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I found out about the death of photographer Mary Ellen Mark the way we learn about the passing of anyone these days—Facebook. My feed is currently flooded with condolences, remembrances, and laminations for Mark, who died yesterday at age 75.

Mark was a powerhouse photographer, a true legend. Her early ’80s project on homeless youth, Streetwise, remains a canon of documentary photography. In the late ’80s and ’90s, Mark’s work graced the pages of Mother Jones numerous times. Art Director Kerry Tremain made great use of her, both picking up archival images and making assignments such as portraits of journalist I.F. Stone and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

Mark’s work was also featured early in the Mother Jones Fine Prints and Portfolios program, which led to the creation of the Mother Jones Documentary Photo Fund. Her print was part of the New York Portfolio I, alongside other heavy hitters like Nan Goldin, Duane Michaels, Ralph Gibson, and Inge Morath. (Sorry, we no longer have any of the print portfolios.)

No doubt there will be many eulogies and recollections of Mark and the impact she made on photography, particularly on social documentary photography, the kind of photography that’s been our bread and butter here.

Though it’s a just a shallow slice of her deep legacy, here’s a collection of some of Mark’s work for Mother Jones.

I.F. Stone, September 1989

 

Russell Simmons, November 2003

 

Mother Jones 15th anniversary issue, 1991
 

 

Story on Ms. magazine, November 1990

 

Story on Ms. magazine, November 1990

 

Jessica Mitford and Maya Angelou, November 1992

 

“Hollywood’s Washington” cover, January 1991

 

And here’s a short piece that Leica produced on Mark:

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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