Mary Ellen Mark - March 20, 1940 – May 25, 2015Tuesday, May 26, 2015
|Mary Ellen Mark - July 1983
Friends Rat, 16 (far left), and Mike, 17, have this Colt .45 only for defense, they insist, against men who try to pick them up or rob them. "I get hassled a lot" says Rat. "Mike's my protection." They picked Seattle because Mike had once lived there.
Few of the generation growing up or even approaching their 30s might know who Henri Cartier-Bresson was. Few would know that he was in effect the father of street photography. Armed with a compact Leica rangefinder camera (not an easy device to use and I know because I have a Leica III F much like the one Cartier-Bresson used) he patiently (anticipating his decisive moment) waited for and watched people in the cafes of Paris and other locations in France. I must add that at the time (the 50s) few carried cameras. He virtually had no competition. Not having competition does not in any way diminish his talent for getting the moment on film.
Now anybody with a camera, or a camera with a phone, can take pictures, street pictures and therefore be street photographers.
In those heady days of street photography some photographers swore by their twin-lens Rolleiflexes. With one of these the photographer looked down into the waist-level viewfinder. Those being photographed did not suspect as the photographer did not wield a camera at eyelevel pointing at them. Photographers who could not afford the expensive Rolleiflexes purchased a device for their 35mm cameras that was in effect a periscope. You pointed your camera in an innocuous direction but the camera was really taking pictures (the important ones!) at a 90 degree angle.
In September 2013 while riding trains in Buenos Aires I found that the only way I could take photographs of the riders was to never take out any of my cameras but to pull out my iPhone 3G and fake that I was either taking a selfie or surfing the net.
Contemporary street photography shares a place in my brain with my disdain for countless projections (bad ones) of rose pictures in a Vancouver Rose Society evening (experienced on a hard chair).
Today I read in my NY Times that photographer Mary Ellen Mark died at age 75 (scary as she was only three years older than I am). She was a street photographer that I deeply admired. Why?
Unlike street photographers who take their pictures on the sly/fly Mark confronted her subjects and took portraits. The one photograph of hers with which I illustrate this blog should explain. My guess is that Mark had a 24mm lens on her camera. This means that this photograph was taken by her at very close quarters. That’s brave and shows her commitment for her respect of her subjects no matter who they were or where they were from.