Mary Ellen Mark (born, March 20, 1940 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American photographer, known for her images which fall between social photojournalism and portraiture.
Mark began photographing with a Box Brownie camera at age nine. During high school, she was head cheerleader with a knack for painting and drawing. Pursuing a career in art, she studied painting and art history for a bachelor's degree at the University of Pennsylvania around 1959. She turned professional as a freelance in the mid-1960s when she returned to school at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating, in 1965, Mark was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to photograph in Turkey and other countries in Europe for a year.
Mark's photography has addressed difficult social issues, including homelessness, loneliness, drug addiction and prostitution. She works primarily in black and white and has contributed to publications including LIFE magazine, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.
Mark has had three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Robert Kennedy Journalism Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and five honorary doctorates. She was a member of the Magnum Photos photography agency from 1977-1982.
In 1988 she received a George Polk Award for photojournalism.
Mark maintains that the technical aspects (as well as the social aspects) of her work are very important - as she said in an interview: "A good print is really essential. I want to take strong documentary photographs that are as good technically as any of the best technical photographs, and as creative as any of the best fine-art photographs. (...) I don't want to just be a photo essayist; I'm more interested in single images.... ones that I feel are good enough to stand on their own".
A collection of Mark's works appeared in a 1984 Sunday Times Magazine article on the white community in Zimbabwe. Mark's photography provided a powerful image of the turmoil surrounding political and social change in Zimbabwe.
Mark is married to film director, Martin Bell (Streetwise/American Heart) and resides in New York City.