Cheltenham High School Hall of Fame

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Mary Ellen Mark

class of 1958
inducted in 1993

Mary Ellen Mark


Mary Ellen Mark has made her mark on the world as one of the premier photojournalists and photoessayists of her era. Focusing neither on the mundane aspects of everyday life nor on the grotesque absurdities of society's misfits, Mark choose instead to turn her camera on society's fringes and, in the most unexpected of places, in a brothel in Bombay, in Oregon State Hospital, to find the truly human.

Mark received a B.F.A. in Painting and Art history and an M.A. in Photojournalism from the
University of Pennsylvania. In 1965 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to photograph in Turkey. Her career spans over a quarter of a century. Her works have been published in 26 books and countless magazines. Her technique to get involved, be accepted by the subject, find the common link of humanity - has resulted in some of the most startling, awakening photographs ever taken: photographs of prostitutes waiting to be picked up by a John, photos of children in Calcutta at Mother Teresa's hospice, of patients in Ward 81 struggling to make it through the day. Many consider Mark one of the finest photojournalists in the world, and even more consider her the finest female in the field.

Mark's photographs reveal all aspects of the humanity she reaches: sadness, happiness, pain. Her work is emotionally intense and difficult for her sometimes, but she does not maintain any preconceptions about her mission: "Any photographer who thinks he or she going to change the world has an inflated ego."

Nevertheless, if connecting a viewer with the subject, if making a subject's emotions all to clear, if making the viewer more aware of what's out there, if any of these can change the world, then Mary Ellen Mark has as good a chance to do it as any CHS alum.