The world suffered a double loss of a warm, wonderful humanitarian and a great documentary photographer on Monday. I have long admired and kept up with Mary Ellen Mark’s career, purchasing her books and a print along the way.
I want to thank my dear friends at Leica, Roger Horn, Ray Tomaselli, Jim Wagner and Karin Renn Kaufman for inviting me and brother Bob to the Aperture Open Road tribute to Robert Frank last October 21. We had the honor and privilege of dining with our Leica friends and to meet and share a meal with my long time photo heroine and her dear husband, filmmaker Martin Bell. We immediately bonded over the beauty and uniqueness of handmade photographic prints, like the sublime Robert Frank photograph auctioned off that very night.
Interestingly, the deep connection Mary Ellen made with with her subjects and so evident in all her work was a strong characteristic of the wonderful woman herself. Warm, effusive and passionate, upon meeting, we were “off to the races” almost immediately. We shared observations about the art photography world and was thrilled to be asked to join in one of her seminars happening in a few days.( Damn schedule conflicts, I missed that chance.) She wanted me to meet her darkroom printer who’d be there and seemed excited by the loosely discussed prospect of bringing some work to Gallery 270 for our annual 21st Century Handmade Print show. It was a glorious moment to meet a heroine and know for certain that she was exactly the person you expected from your observations of her work!
Our hearts and thoughts are especially with Martin and Mary Ellen’s family, her studio family and in communion with her legions of friends, students and peers. We celebrate the life and accomplishments and mourn the loss of a dedicated, tireless visionary photographer and a warm, wonderful exemplary woman whose expansive, open heart was evident in all she accomplished behind the camera and in every moment of her prolific life.