Photography legend Mary Ellen Mark will be hosting a hands-on workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico from June 26 – July 6, 2011. The workflow is centered on black and white film photography. Each student will receive multiple reviews of their work, assignments, and individual conferences with Mark herself. A book will be put together containing the best images from the workshop, with three or four images from each student.
Mark’s site also contains PDFs optimized for Apple’s iPad which chronicle the Oaxaca workshop photographs from 2009 and 2010. Full details are available here.
Visit her site to view all details of the workshop, including logistics, requirements, travel and lodging information, applications, and an insightful statement from Mark herself on the workshop.
We previously profiled Mary Ellen Mark on the Mamiya blog in April of 2010, when she reported, “The work my students do in Oaxaca is very inspiring to me. I’m very proud of them. It’s great work.” She has run workshops in New York, and launched her beautiful new sitein February.
Photojournalism and portraiture living legend Mary Ellen Mark has launched a redesign of her site. The site is more easily navigable and has more content than her previous design.
A winner of three Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards and three National Endowment for the Arts awards, Mark is a longtime Mamiya shooter. She was profiled in this post on our blog last year. She shoots the Mamiya RZ, the 7, and the 645.
According to her Facebook page, last year she asked Santa for “a new Mamiya 7 with a 50mm lens and 1000 rolls of Tri-X 220.” No word if Santa came through. Keep up the great work, Mary Ellen!
Longtime Mamiya user and living legend Mary Ellen Mark is having a workshop for 15 lucky experienced photographers October 30-31.
Here are the details:
Halloween Weekend Workshop
New York, NY
October 30-31, 2010
Description: This workshop is a combination of lecture, shooting, portfolio review & critique. Class size is limited to 15 students. Mary Ellen will review students’ portfolios and offer guidance on ongoing projects. She will discuss the basics of how her library is organized and other aspects of photography as a business. Mary Ellen will also give a slide lecture and show some films that she has produced with her husband, Martin Bell. Students will go out independently on Sunday to shoot at the Village Halloween Parade or other events around the city. After the class, students will be able to send contact sheets from their Halloween shooting to Mary Ellen, which she will edit with comments and return to you.
Requirements: This class is for experienced photographers. Attendees should bring their portfolio to the class for review. Prints only, no slides. Computer print-outs are fine. Students should also come prepared to shoot on Sunday. Students can shoot either film or digital.
Location & hours: The workshop will take place at Mary Ellen’s office & studio in SoHo. Hours on both Saturday & Sunday will be from 10:00am to 6:00pm with a break for lunch. Students visiting from out of town should plan on staying in New York through Sunday so they can attend/shoot the Village Halloween Parade–the largest Halloween parade in the country.
Price & payment: The course fee is $650. Payments by cash, check, money order, or PayPal are accepted. Full payment will be due by October 15, 2010. Payment details will be provided upon acceptance to the class.
Application: Applications are due September 24, 2010. Notification will be made by September 28, 2010. Adobe Acrobat is required for the interactive application. Get Acrobat here. (*You may need to choose Advanced > Enable Usage Rights in Adobe Reader to use the form.) Send the completed form to Falkland Road Inc, 37 Greene Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10013, fax: 212-925-1532
As I negotiated with Mary Ellen Mark’s able staff to find a suitable time for our interview, I found myself in a place I rarely am: nervous. Feeling fortunate my calls were even being returned, I spent time reviewing photos from her long and prolific career: ones I knew well and loved, others new and just as moving. It didn’t seem quite like reality that I would be speaking with the photographic legend responsible for work I had admired for years. Fortunately, Ms. Mark’s legendary body of work is no indicator of the warm individual willing to reveal anything to do with her life and art I asked her.
There are no end to the accolades and citations documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark has won for her portraiture and photojournalism. Among many are three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, three Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, and the Cornell Capa Award by the International Center of Photography in 2001. Her work has appeared in LIFE, Look, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.
Originally hailing from the Philadelphia suburbs, Mary Ellen began her photographic oddessy shooting a Brownie at age nine. She stayed in the area, eventually attending the University of Pennsylvania to earn a BFA degree in Painting and Art History. Two years later she received a Master’s Degree in Photojournalism from the Annenberg School for Communication. She has travelled the world to photograph what interests her, and her interests have proved both wide and deep. A year after her Master’s, a Fulbright Scholarship took her to Turkey for a year of intense photography of everything she encountered. She also included Western European countries and didn’t return to the U.S. for two years.
When she came home in 1967, the world was changing. She moved to New York in time to document everything from anti-war protests to what most now regard as the common thread in her work: people on the edge. “I’m interested in people who have had it hard,” she says. “Life’s very different when you’re not living comfortably. I felt drawn to documenting the lives of people who live precariously on the edge.”
Her personal projects kept her busy with the displaced and dispossesed, but her commercial work as a still photographer for motion pictures made an important link for her and the career we’ve come to know her by. Shooting everything from Alice’s Restaurant to Fellini’s Satyricon, she eventually made her way to the Pacific Northwest to shoot stills on the set of Carnal Knowledge, and later, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The latter film, by Milos Forman, brought her to the now-famed Oregon State Mental Hospital. She returned three years later and documented the female patients there in the 1979 book Ward 81. The images are stark, haunting, and some, even hopeful of recovery. At this stage in her career, her unflinching view of the best of humanity under the hardest of circumstances had coalesced.
In 1978 she went to India, where she photographed Bombay’s Falkland Road prostitutes. Unlike Ward 81, the resulting photos from this trip are in color: deeply saturated and not as close up as many of the Oregon photos, showing the hard surroundings and way of life of the prostitutes. The rich colors of the walls and buildings is often overlayed with edginess of the human subjects and their lives, creating a hard to ignore juxatposition. These photos were the basis of Falkland Road: Prostitutes of Bombay, from Alfred A Knopf, 1981.
She returned to both black and white film and the United States for her next projects. Again in the Pacific Northwest, Mark documented the lives of Seattle’s street children. Her husband, Martin Bell, eventually made the film titled Streetwise, which, like his wife’s photographs, documented people on the edge—this time children working as prostitutes, panhandlers, and dealers. The most iconic of these photographs is one of Erin Blackwell, known on the street as Tiny. She is dressed in black for Halloween, albeit as a French prostitute. These photos eventually were collected in 1988′s Streetwise, from the University of Pennsylvania Press. “I’m still in touch with Tiny, and still photograph her from time to time,” reports Mark.
Mark’s next subject was the Damm family of Los Angeles, shot for LIFE magazine. The family of four were living in a car, and her black and white vision beneath the bright Southern California sun, is as emotional as ever.
While shooting people on the edge, from Indian street performers to down and out American rodeo hands, Mark has also documented celebrities for decades, from Ansel Adams to Robin Williams. These black and white portraits often seem to not only bring out what we expect of Mark’s subjects—the dignity of Coretta Scott King, the sexiness of Pamela Anderson—but something more vulnerable and human, such as a wise Norman Mailer with a pug in his lap which looks remarkably like him, or Woody Allen appearing completely at ease. Results like these are a testament to how Mark disarms politicians and Hollywood royalty alike. “It’s easy to photograph actors because they’re actors,” Mark says. “Someone like Jeff Bridges, whom I’ve known a long time, is willing to show you many sides of himself. Some can not want to show you those sides. It depends on the individual. Celebrities are used to being photographed, and it’s always harder to get people not used to that to open up. They’re more guarded.”
Primarily known as a documentary photographer, in addition to her celebrity portraits, Mark’s advertising work boasts clients such as Barnes and Noble, Coach Bags, Eileen Fisher, Heineken, Keds, and Nissan.
Although there is not much this living legend of photography hasn’t focused her lens on, one thing has remained consistent across her varied subject matter. “I love film,” she says. ”I shoot the Mamiya RZ, the 7, and the 645. I like the 645 for street work, but for studio work, I use the RZ. On the street I use a 50mm lens, which is too wide for in the studio. It’s too distorting, and I don’t like studio pictures where the subject is distorted. I actually hate them,” she says laughing. “You need to get up closer in the studio.”
Mark uses TRI-X film for her Mamiya cameras. “I can see the value of digital, but I can see the value of analog, too. I choose to continue working in film a lot. I love the beauty and depth of it, particularly in black and white.”
“I use some flash on my street photography, which surprises people,” Mark says. “Sometimes I use it as the key, sometimes I use it as the fill. It depends what the existing situation is: the existing light and the background. In bright sunlight, I would definitely use it as a strong fill. If the light is very dead and overcast, I might try to pump it up. It depends. I try to vary it each time and just feel how much of flash it needs as a fill. Sometimes I just use it the tiniest, tiniest bit. Sometimes I just really throw it in there. I feel what I think it needs for each situation.”
While there are clearly no set technical rules for Mark, she’s quick to use the tool she feels is best suited for each job. “I love medium format, but I also like 35mm. It’s different. If it works, it works. But there’s something about the amount of detail in the medium format I really love; the presence of it. Other times the 35mm format just works. You go by feel.”
“The things you choose to photograph are things which have become part of your life,” Mark explains. “The next book I’m doing is a book on proms. Prom is important to so many people. I still have my prom photo. It’s something I never forgot. My husband is working on a film about this. We went around the country researching it. I’m not using film on this project. It’s all Polaroid, with a big camera—20 x 24. It seemed to be the right medium for the project.” Due out from Abrams in 2011, the book has been five years in the making: four years of shooting, one of editing.
When not shooting or editing, Mark teaches at Woodstock, New York and Oaxaca, Mexico, among other locations. “The work my students do in Oaxaca is very inspiring to me. I’m very proud of them. It’s great work,” she says.
Near the end of our talk, I expressed some concern over my own art. “You just have to feel what’s right. Don’t think too hard. Feel.” That’s a truth all artists should be reminded of from time to time. Thank you, Ms. Marks, for that and more.