Mary Ellen Mark

Mit ihren Arbeiten traf Mary Ellen Mark immer das Herz der Menschen, ohne ihrem Motiv die Würde zu nehmen. Die Fotografin zählt mit ihren ikonographischen schwarzweiß Portraits zu den wichtigsten Fotografen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Im Fokus ihrer Arbeit standen häufig Außenseiter. Ihr Fotografie-Beitrag zur Reportage ‚Streets of the Lost‘, die 1983 im Life magazine erschien, beschäftigte sich mit Straßenkindern in Seattle. Der Artikel sorgte für viel Aufstehen in den USA und inspirierte Mary Ellen Marks Ehemann Martin Bell zur Dokumentation Streetwise. Der bewegende Film stellte Portraits von Straßenkindern zusammen und zählt mit den schonungslosen Bildern zu den Vorbildern von Underground-Filmemachern der 90er wie Harmony Korine oder Larry Clark. Ein weiterer wichtiger Beitrag sind ihre Fotos der Damm Family in Los Angeles. Die Bilder der verarmten Familie erschienen in zahlreichen Magazinen und sorgten nach ihrer Veröffentlichung für eine Spendenflut. Tragischerweise rutschte die Familie mit den Spendengeldern noch weiter in den Drogensumpf, was Mary Ellen Mark 1994 nach ihrer Rückkehr zu der Familie zu einem selbstkritischen und nachdenklichen Artikel bewegte. Auch ihre Portraits unzähliger Schauspieler wie John Bellushi, Marlon Brando oder Dennis Hopper .

Die Künstlerin beantwortete uns einige Fragen zu ihren Arbeiten.



Sonic-Reducer You have followed and changed journalism and photography in the 20th century. The way the media and the internet have dealt with photography in the last couple of years changed a lot. What are your thoughts on this development?

Mary Ellen Mark That’s true. The kind of classic photojournalism I grew up with and which was my home died out. It may sound harsh, but that´s just the way I feel about it. 2 or 3 years ago I was going through a magazine and discovered how tremendous the change was. Nowadays everything has to be edited and photoshopped. I think it takes away the soul of the object and it’s hard for me to see the reality in these images. Don´t get me wrong, I´m also fascinated by it all. But mainly I fear that editing tools as Photoshop and digital photography distance us from reality.

Sonic-Reducer One of your most important works was ‚Streets of the Lost‘, which also inspired the ‚Streetwise‘ project. I can imagine, that it´s very tough und intense to work on an assignment like that. In how far did all the work with the unfortunate people affect you personally?

Mary Ellen Mark It´s hard to pin down, but it changed a lot in me. As a photographer you always try to keep a distance and just capture the essence of the person you´re about to photograph, but in the end it still changes the way you perceive the world. With the work in Seattle and maybe also with Falkland Road (1981) it was probably the hardest work, because it was such an intense and moving experience.

Sonic-Reducer Do you know what happened to the kinds afterwards?

Mary Ellen Mark Oh yes, Mark and I revisited them from time to time.maryellenmark4

Sonic-Reducer Throughout your whole career you´ve been drawn to handicapped people and the outsiders in our society. What´s the reason behind that?

Mary Ellen MarkIn some cases it was just the assignment, but most of all I was just interested in it. I´ve always been interested in the unhappy people who struggle with their life and are living in extreme poverty or in an extreme situation. It is very challenging sometimes, but it´s worth the experience.

Sonic-ReducerIs it true, that you´ve discovered the actor Edward Furlong?

Mary Ellen Mark Well, I wouldn´t say that Edward Furlong was my discovery. I just did an essay work on child actors in 1991. I have been to many sets and he was one of the actors I photographed. I was fascinated by him from the first moment and told Martin (Bell) to give him a chance in the movie we´ve been working on back then (American Heart). Edward did a short reading and it was a perfect fit. He was a very talented actor.

Sonic-ReducerThank you very much for your answers.

Mary Ellen Mark You´re welcome.

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