I was out on the streets of Boston yesterday, camera in-hand, doing what it is I love when a push to my phone stated something about photos of the, ‘late Mary Ellen Mark‘. I literally rubbed my eyes because I thought the sun had gotten to me and I’d read it wrong. Within seconds, twitter feeds, hashtags, all things ‘insta’ confirmed what I’d hoped was a mistake. Mary Ellen had passed away at the age of 75. I stood there along the harbor feeling light-headed; I’d been holding my breath…I was trying not to cry.
I used to think I was pretty good at communicating, decent with words, able to convey feelings, but I am at a loss this time. A loss for words that would adequately describe what Mary Ellen and her work meant to me. From the impact of the very first image of hers I’d ever seen, to the photo of us at her lecture in D.C. in 2013, she has been nothing short of a catalyst. Her determination, compassion for those she photographed, fiery spirit, even her signature braids have been a stellar example of what it means to be true to one’s self, true to one’s vision.
I feel honored and grateful for my internship with her which was made possible and priceless thanks to Meredith Lue, Julia Bezgin Soura, and Steve Simon for, despite my lack of confidence, dialing 411and tossing me the phone.
Mary Ellen’s imagery has opened eyes, touched hearts and changed lives. She has accomplished the very thing which she thought could only be done had she’d taken another path in life. Thankfully for us, Mary Ellen blazed her own trail and has left us in its light.
“If I hadn’t become a photographer, I would have loved to become a doctor. I would have loved to have done something that actually helped people and changed their lives.”
Mary Ellen Mark