In Remembrance: 10 Quotes by Photographer Mary Ellen Mark

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Image by Mary Ellen Mark

Photographer Mary Ellen Mark was born in Philadelphia in 1940 and recently passed leaving behind quite the legacy of images. Her work was incredibly important; and it is evident by the fact that Magnum Photos included her as member for a while until she left, but also quite clear by all the awards that she won during her career.

In the 1960s, she moved to New York City and began photographing protests, transvestite culture, and what Times Square was back then–a gritty and dirty place that was all about sex. Her work also went on to address things like homelessness and other major social issues. “Usually my ideas for work have revolved around my interest in people, especially people that live on the edges of society.” she said about her own work.

It’s easy to say that her work influenced many photographers who came afterwards and that she was an inspiration for many photography students aspiring to do documentary work. But besides images, she is known for her interesting quotes that sometimes were funny and other times showed the realities of life.

In remembrance of Mary Ellen Mark, we’ve rounded up a number of quotes to remember her for.

– I’m just interested in what makes a photograph.

– The difficulty with color is to go beyond the fact that it’s color – to have it be not just a colorful picture but really be a picture about something. It’s difficult. So often color gets caught up in color, and it becomes merely decorative. Some photographers use [ it ] brilliantly to make visual statements combining color and content; otherwise it is empty. 

– “I don’t think you’re ever an objective observer. By making a frame you’re being selective, then you edit the pictures you want published and you’re being selective again. You develop a point of view that you want to express. You try to go into a situation with an open mind, but then you form an opinion and you express it in your photographs. It is very important for a photographer to have a point of view- that contributes to a great photograph.”

– In a portrait, you always leave part of yourself behind.

– Finding the right subject is the hardest part.

– I respect newspapers, but the reality is that magazine ‘photojournalism’ is finished. They want illustrations, Photoshopped pictures of movie stars.

– Nowadays shots are created in post-production, on computers. It’s not really photography.

– I just think it’s important to be direct and honest with people about why you’re photographing them and what you’re doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.

– 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.

– It’s not when you press the shutter, but why you press the shutter.