Mary Ellen Mark is an American photographer known for her photojournalism, portraiture, and advertising photography. She has had 16 collections of her work published and has been exhibited at galleries and museums worldwide. She has received numerous accolades, including three Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards and three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Mary Ellen Mark was born in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and began photographing with a Box Brownie camera at age nine. She attended Cheltenham High School, where she was head cheerleader and exhibited a knack for painting and drawing. She received a BFA degree in painting and art history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1962, and a Masters Degree in photojournalism from that university's Annenberg School for Communication in 1964. The following year, Mark received a Fulbright Scholarship to photograph in Turkey for a year. While there, she also traveled to photograph England, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Spain.
In 1966 or 1967, she moved to New York City, where over the next several years she photographed Vietnam War demonstrations, the women's liberation movement, transvestite culture, and Times Square, developing a sensibility, according to one writer, "away from mainstream society and toward its more interesting, often troubled fringes". As Mark explained in 1987, "I'm just interested in people on the edges. I feel an affinity for people who haven't had the best breaks in society. What I want to do more than anything is acknowledge their existence".
Her shooting style ranges from a 2 ¼ inch format, 35 mm, and 4x5 inch view camera. She also uses a Leica 4 for most photographs and Nikons for long-range shooting. Mark loves shooting with a Hasselblad for square format and she shoots primarily in black-and-white, using classic Kodak Tri-X film.