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Mary Ellen Mark: nothing is more extraordinary than reality

The eye of Mary Ellen Mark’s camera focused above all on people in general, and especially on the disadvantaged and the outcasts of society. The great photographer died in New York on 25 May 2015 at the age of 75.

Born in Philadelphia in 1940, Mary Ellen Mark studied art and art history before turning to photography in 1963. Even at the beginning of her creative work, she was particularly interested in documenting socially critical issues and people at the fringes of society. Her reportage photos, for example the series about Indian prostitutes she shot in collaboration with Mother Teresa, show the subjects’ human dignity. The American also photographed – with equal impact and extreme sensitivity – the jobless, disadvantaged, homeless, junkies and street kids in the Bronx borough of New York.

Mary Ellen Mark also shot for iconic magazines like Life, Vogue, Time, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair and captured impressive portraits of celebrities like Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Johnny Depp and Robert Downey, Jr, as well as publishing more than a dozen books of her work in the course of her life. Her unforgotten photographs have been honoured by many exhibitions – for example, Magic Moments – 40 Years of Leica M in Paris (1995) or last year’s Leica: My First Camera in the Leica Store in Washington DC and the Magic Moments exhibition at the Leica Galerie in the Leitz Park Wetzlar in the same year.

‘The Leica was my first street camera. I’ve worked with Leica for years and years and years. I know it really well. It is still a great camera,’ said Mary Ellen Mark, confessing her love for her Leica in an interview only a few years ago. She treasured the camera that allowed her to capture the essence of her particular empathy for people in unique pictures.

Leica Camera AG bids farewell to a good friend and a great photographer.

Read an interview with Mary Ellen Mark on the Leica Blog.