Photographers from Photo Box #6

Today I had the book in my hands, wondering if I was going to do another Photo:Box post or not when I was stopped by an image that completely caught my attention. We’re on page 148, chapter Portraits.

#6: Mary Ellen Mark

Look at the image below, look at their eyes! What’s the (sad) story behind it? I’ll tell you: They are the Damm Family, they had been thrown out of a refuge and started a life on the road. Poverty, drugs and violence – no job, no home.
Eight years later the photographer went in search of this family again and she found them with two more children, still trapped in drugs and violence (see the photo here).

From the book: “Those few moments of respite within the viewfinder were provided by Mary Ellen Mark, who had been commissioned by Life to produce reportage on homeless Americans. (…) it took her a journey through some of the most deprived and hopeless areas of the United States, places where all traces of beauty and wellbeing have evaporated.”

Mary Ellen Mark / Grazia Neri – The Damm family, Los Angeles, 1987

5 facts about the photographer:

  • She started taking pictures in 1962.
  • M. Ellen Mark was awarded a grant to travel to Asia, Europe and back to the USA, her photographs were published in the volume Passport.
  • She did a photo story on the work of Mother Teresa.
  • Portraits was published in 1995.
  • In 2005 she published the monograph Exposure.

2 thoughts on “Photographers from Photo Box #6”

  1. Hope you had a wonderful start to ’12.

    Curious to learn your thoughts…do you think sharing a photograph’s context/background influences our perception towards it?

    I looked at the photograph first before reading the prose and my first thought was, this was a family exhausted after a weekend roadtrip!


    1. Absolutely. 🙂 I personally like to know what was going on at the moment when the image was taken, so I can look at every detail and rebuild the story.
      On the other hand I think it’s very interesting to see the interpretation we make of a picture we know nothing about. Actually that’s a great idea for a post! 😉
      Happy New Year to you too!


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