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Attitude: Portraits by Mary Ellen Mark, 1964–2015

Main Gallery

May 5 – June 29, 2016

Press Release

New York City – An exhibition of photographs by Mary Ellen Mark will be on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery from May 5 – June 19, 2016. Spanning the breadth of her dazzling career, Attitude: Portraits by Mary Ellen Mark, 1964–2015, celebrates nearly 40 of Mark’s most enduring images. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Thursday, May 5, from 6 – 8 p.m.


A related exhibition, Tiny: Streetwise Revisited, Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark, will be on view at Aperture in New York from May 26 – June 30, 2016.


Mary Ellen Mark, who passed away last year, is known for her photojournalism, documentary photography, and notably, her portraiture. Attitude: Portraits by Mary Ellen Mark, 1964–2015 is curated by Melissa Harris, editor-at-large, Aperture Foundation, who notes, “In choosing the images from among many of her key series, I was defining attitude in terms of a sense of self, a kind of awareness and confidence, self-possession.”


The exhibition surveys highlights from many of her series including Indian Circus, humorous and bizarre shots of performers and contortionists and their animals from India’s liveliest circuses; and Falkland Road, gritty images of prostitutes and their patrons on a notorious street in Bombay.  Selections from Twins and Prom explore – in large format Polaroids – siblings at the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, and prom-goers across the U.S. Images from Mark’s work for LIFE magazine about the Damms, a homeless family in California, express the grim reality of survival on spare change and welfare checks.


Also on view will be work from Streetwise, which portrays homeless and troubled youth in Seattle including a girl named Tiny. Work from Tiny: Streetwise Revisited, her series completed in 2015, encapsulates Mark’s 30-plus years photographing Tiny, now a middle-aged mother of ten. Mark also photographed on film sets and is known for her celebrity portraits including images of Marlon Brando, Sean Penn, Woody Allen, and Yoko Ono.


Through her work, Mark “got you to feel, without telling you what or how to feel,” noted Harris.  “She was passionate and compassionate. Life mattered. Animals mattered. People mattered.”

About Mary Ellen Mark

Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015) was born in Philadelphia and achieved worldwide visibility through her photographs. For over four decades, she traveled extensively to make influential pictures that reflect a high degree of humanism. During her lifetime, her photo essays and portraits were exhibited worldwide and appeared in numerous publications, including LIFE, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. Her photo essay on runaway children in Seattle became the basis of the Academy Award–nominated film Streetwise, directed and photographed by her husband Martin Bell, and was published in book form in 1988. Mark published 21 books, including Ward 81 (Simon & Schuster, 1979), Falkland Road (Knopf, 1981), Streetwise (second printing, Aperture, 1992), American Odyssey (Aperture, 1999), Twins (Aperture, 2003), Exposure (Phaidon, 2005), Seen Behind the Scene (Phaidon, 2009), Prom (Getty, 2012), and Tiny: Streetwise Revisited (Aperture, 2015).


In addition to producing her own work, Mark taught photography workshops for nearly 30 years, most notably in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her thoughts on teaching are captured in one of her final titles, Mary Ellen Mark on the Portrait and the Moment (Aperture’s Photography Workshop Series, 2015).


Her work has been exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the International Center of Photography, New York; Bibliotheque nationale de France and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; California Museum of Photography, Riverside; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ; Corcoran Gallery of Art; Washington; Detroit Institute of Arts; Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo, Oaxaca;  El Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City;  George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; The Hague Museum of Photography, J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Marguilies Collection, Miami; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Seattle Art Museum; the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation, Arles; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; among others.


Her honors and awards included a Fulbright Scholarship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Cornell Capa Award, and the 2014 Lifetime Achievement in Photography Award from George Eastman House.