“I'm most interested in finding the strangeness and irony in reality. That's my forte,” American photographer Mary Ellen Mark (1940–2015) observed, very much aware of the gift she brought to the world. Her passion for the camera and the way in which it captured the curious sides of life can be seen in her life’s work. For five decades, Mark was a singular figure in the medium, producing a series of work that speaks to her love for humanity in its infinite forms.
Attitude: Portraits by Mary Ellen Mark, 1964–2015, now on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, through June 18, 2016, presents nearly 40 works from the artist’s singular archive. Melissa Harris, editor-at-large at Aperture Foundation, curated the show, selection works from Mark’s famous series, each of them sparkling with life and revealing an intense curiosity about the nature of our days and nights.
Included in the exhibition are works from Indian Circus, Falkland Road, Twins, and Prom, revealing the artist’s personal fascinations. In committing herself so completely to the craft, Mark has created a space of personal freedom that becomes the space upon which she acts. As a documentary photographer, she crafts histories, ones that speak silently, without ever saying a word.
And yet it is in this space that understanding comes. As Mark observed, “I think photography is closest to writing, not painting. It's closest to writing because you are using this machine to convey an idea. The image shouldn't need a caption; it should already convey an idea.”