Mary Ellen Mark

Exhibition Mary Ellen Mark: Alike, My Friends

© Mary Ellen Mark

“Reality is always extraordinary.” – Mary Ellen Mark


─── by Josh Bright, January 25, 2022

London gallery Huxley-Parlour presents a solo exhibition of works by celebrated American photographer, Mary Ellen Mark.

Black and white documentary photography by Mary Ellen Mark, young girls in paddling pool one smoking
Amanda and her cousin Amy. Valdese, North Carolina, 1990 © Mary Ellen Mark / Image courtesy of Huxley-Parlour Gallery


One of the most important photographers of her time, Mark spent much of her remarkable five-decade-long career capturing those on society’s peripheries with unwavering honesty, acuity, and compassion.

Born in Philadelphia in 1940, she studied painting and art history, followed by an MA in photojournalism at the University of Pennsylvania, and after graduating, traveled to Turkey on a Fulbright Scholarship. She relocated to New York City in the 1960s and spent the ensuing decades depicting countercultural movements and the marginalized for such renowned publications as LIFE, New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair.

Black and white photography by Mary Ellen mark, Black-American couple in bed, NYC, 1968
Queen and Boyfriend in Bed, The Queen, New York, USA 1968 © Mary Ellen Mark / Image courtesy of Huxley-Parlour Gallery
Black and white photography by Mary Ellen mark, two children in cowboy outfits at rodeo, texas 1991
Craig Scarmardo and Cheyloh Mather at the Boerne Rodeo, Texas 1991 © Mary Ellen Mark / Image courtesy of Huxley-Parlour Gallery


Driven by a deep humanism Mark’s deeply intimate and sensitive imagery captured perfectly the personalities of those she photographed, emphasizing their humanity, as to engender empathy and amity within the viewer. 

Her subjects included sex workers in Mumbai, patients at an Oregon mental institution, and teenagers living on the streets of Seattle, which culminated in the acclaimed book STREETWISE, and the subsequent Academy Award-nominated film of the same name (produced collaboratively with her husband, filmmaker Martin Bell, and journalist Cheryl McCall).

Black and white photography by Mary Ellen mark, woman in bathtub, at Oregon state hospital
Laurie in the Bathtub of Ward 81, Oregon State Hospital, 1976 © Mary Ellen Mark / Image courtesy of Huxley-Parlour Gallery
Black and white documentary photography by Mary Ellen Mark. Girl dressed up for Republic Day.
Emine Dressed Up for Republic Day, Trabzon, Turkey © Mary Ellen Mark / Image courtesy of Huxley-Parlour Gallery
Black and white documentary photography by Mary Ellen Mark. elderly women smoking
Sue Gallo Baugher and Faye Gallo at the Twins Festival, Twinsburg, Ohio, 1998 © Mary Ellen Mark / Image courtesy of Huxley-Parlour Gallery


During the course of her lifetime, she published twenty books and exhibited extensively across the globe. She received a myriad of awards and accolades, including, an Outstanding Contribution to Photography award from the World Photography Organisation, just over a year before she died, in May 2015.

Comprising 26 works, and focusing specifically on her striking portraiture, the exhibition will examine Mark’s relationship with her subjects, and more broadly, seek to convey her immense impact on the fabric of American documentary photography. It marks the first UK presentation of her work since her inclusion in the group exhibition ‘Vanity Fair Portraits’ at The National Portrait Gallery in 2008, and her first solo exhibition in the city for over two decades.

Black and white documentary photography by Mary Ellen Mark. Family in their car
The Damm Family in Their Car, Los Angeles, California 1987 © Mary Ellen Mark / Image courtesy of Huxley-Parlour Gallery


The exhibition title refers to the poem ‘Human Family’, (which featured in Mark’s 1999 photobook American Odyssey), in which author Maya Angelou encourages us to recognize and celebrate our commonalities alongside our differences: “We are more alike, my friends/ than we are unalike”.

Mary Ellen Mark: Alike, My Friends is on show at Huxley-Parlour, London from 25 Jan – 12 Feb 2022. More info here.


All images © Mary Ellen Mark

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