Legendary Portrait Photographer Mary Ellen Mark dies at 75

My way into wedding photography was led by my interest in documentary photography and photojournalism. I have never seen wedding photography than anything else. It’s just a niche in social documentary photography.

When I grew up as a teenager I spent a lot of time in libraries, but more often you would find me in book stores in the art department, standing in front of the shelves filled with the most amazing photography books. In the time before the internet and millions of resources available, that’s where I studied the work of Magnum, René Burri, Robert Frank, Annie Leibovitz, Mark Seliger, Anton Corbijn and also: Mary Ellen Mark.

Mary Ellen Mark

I remember flipping through Mary Ellen Mark’s book Falkland Road: Prostitutes of Bombay, unable to understand how one could get access to people to be able to photograph such intimate images. I was also amazed by her book Indian Circus. The cover with the elephant stuck in my head for years. Unfortunately at the time I didn’t have the money to buy all these books and later they disappeared from the book shelves as time went by. Still, from time to time I was able to find one of those books that were an early inspiration to me on the flea market. I’m happy that “Indian Circus” is part of my photo book collection today.

Many years after those days and being a photographer myself in the meantime, I got a call from a friend. That got a call from a friend. Telling me that Mary Ellen Mark was in Switzerland right now, teaching a class and holding a private lecture this evening in Vevey at the l’école de photographie. Sure enough I took the next train to Vevey which is always worth a visit anyway. Only about 20 people where following here lecture when she shared Prom, here latest project at the time, and some of her other work.

Later after the lecture everyone went to have lunch at a nice little restaurant in Vevey and my friend and I were lucky enough to sit just next to Mary Ellen Mark at the table. She was such a nice elderly lady, charming and interested in everything and everyone. And I will never forget when she was finishing the food from my friend’s plate. As you would do from your friend’s, right?

R.I.P Mary Ellen Mark

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