|Hi Mary Ellen and thank you for taking time to do this interview with me for the
Collectors World Online website. This is exciting for me as I am a huge fan of your
work. What an amazing career!
You've photographed so many interesting people from Bill Clinton, Dennis Hopper,
Clayton Moore, Yoko Ono, Billy Graham, Tim Burton, Eva Marie Saint, Al Gore,
Candice and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy...ha... to Mother Teresa, just to
name a few...do you have a favorite? Which is/are the most memorable?
Each experience is an adventure.
Do you have a least favorite?
If I did I wouldn't tell you.
Your photo of the Damn family is one of my all time favorite photographs. I tried to
put into words (in the preface of this interview) why that photo is so appealing to
me. What do you think is the appeal of the photo?
I think the thing that most photographers want in their images is to make it iconic and it's very
hard to define why an iconic image is an iconic image. I think it has something to do with what
the people look like, where it was shot, the fact that it has very shallow depth of field, the fact
that it is timeless. It became one of my pictures that did become an iconic image. I can't
Who have you not photographed that you would like to?
Well, I would have loved to have photographed Michael Jackson. I never had a chance.
Gosh, there are so many people that I would like to have photographed. That's really a hard
question to answer. So many people. I certainly haven't photographed everybody.
You've come close.
Michael, because he was such a mystery.
I would like you to photograph Stephen King.
Oh really. Stephen is an interesting writer. He would be interesting to photograph.
When you photographed Mother Theresa, did you have a chance to speak with her,
and what was that like?
It was a very formal relationship. You know, the way most relationships are with people that
are famous. Quite formal. I did travel with her once. But I didn't speak much. I just
concentrated on getting the photograph and not concentrating on making eye contact or
Do you have any photographer friends that we might know?
There are a lot of friends I've known over the years. Like Rob Gibson, we kinda came to New
York at the same time, we remained very good friends. I have a lot of friends and people I
respect and admire like Sally Mann, Graciela Iturbide a Mexican photographer. Gosh, many,
Are you familiar with Shelby Adams work?
Yea, he's a good photographer.
I love his work.
You've photographed Dennis Hopper as well. Have you seen his photography and
did you like it?
He's a fine photographer and a brilliant man. He was wonderful to photograph. He was really
generous in the fact that he would reveal a lot about himself which was something a lot of
famous people are very cautious about. He was very open.
You did a book about twins. I'm an identical twin. What was the impetus for that
book? Are you a twin?
I'm not a twin. I've just always have been interested in twins. I think most photographers are
interested in twins. Twins are an oddity of nature and it's very interesting to look at two people
that are identical.
Where did you find them?
I went to the festival in Twinsburg, Ohio.
What equipment do you use now?
I'm still an analog photographer. I use Leika, Canon, Mamiya 7. I shoot everything using
Polaroid 20 x 24.
What do you think of digital and the new processes?
It's different..I think digital is a different medium. I think it has some very good purposes you
know but for me, I really prefer analog. But you know I admire it a lot, you know for young
people starting out, it's very good...for newspaper photographers that need to send work
back, it's very good, but there's no reason for me to change. I still love film...I love the whole
process of film.
Do you think "Photoshopping" is kind of cheating?
It depends upon how far you go with Photoshoppiong, you can be cheating. It depends upon
how far you take it and how honest you are about it. I think people that use photoshop as a
"darkroom", it's fine. It's fine, like making a print. But I think when you really start to change
things you have to be cautious and be careful.
How do you want people to remember your work?
I would just like them to remember my images as being strong images that move them.
How do you make your subjects "comfortable"?
There is no formula to making somebody be comfortable. You just have to be who you are
and you have to have confidence in what you do. I think you just have to be who you are.
I think that is all the questions I have. Thank you for your time.
Okay, thank you and take care.
Thanks Mary Ellen and thank you to Julia Bezgin at the Mary Ellen Mark Studio as well!
A Conversation with Mary Ellen Mark
by Mark Sean Orr
April 7, 2011
You can view Mary Ellen Mark's wonderful photography and books on her website at:
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|The Damn Family in their car,
Los Angeles 1987
|Johnny Depp holding a hare on the set of Alice in Wonderland, Los
Angeles, California 2009
|Yoko Ono, Brooklyn, New York 1997
|Michael and Matthew Gragnani, 11 years old, Matthew older by 1
minute,Twinsburg, Ohio, 2001
|Donald Sutherland relaxes in a bathtub between takes on the set of The Day of
the Locust,Los Angeles, California 1974