Mary Ellen Mark, whose unflinching yet compassionate depictions of prostitutes in Mumbai, homeless teenagers in Seattle and mental patients in a state institution in Oregon made her one of the premier documentary photographers of her generation, died on Monday in Manhattan. She was 75.
The cause was myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease affecting bone marrow and blood, said Julia Bezgin, her studio manager.
Ms. Mark began her career with magazines like Look and Life, taking a classic documentary approach to often difficult material and usually working in black and white. Early on, she showed a remarkable ability to win the confidence of her subjects, and she maintained contact with many of them through the years.
Her latest book, “Tiny: Streetwise Revisited,” for example, returns to the main character in the book “Streetwise,” one of several homeless Seattle youths she photographed in the early 1980s. The book is set to be published by Aperture in the fall.
In the 1990s, Ms. Mark made the transition to fashion photography and portraiture, with ad campaigns for clients like Coach, Eileen Fisher and Heineken. At the same time she continued her documentary work, photographing high school proms, autistic children and families in homeless shelters.
“She was a great storyteller,” said Melissa Harris, the editor in chief of the Aperture Foundation, who edited several of Ms. Mark’s books. “She got to know the subjects she photographed very well, and she was able to convey who they were and how they lived, as well as a sense of their interior lives. There are not that many photographers who can do that.”
Mary Ellen Mark was born on March 20, 1940, in Philadelphia, and grew up nearby in Elkins Park. She had two main ambitions in high school, she told The New York Times Magazine in 1987: to become the head cheerleader and to be popular with boys. She succeeded at both.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/arts/design/mary-ellen-mark-photographer-who-documented-difficult-subjects-dies-at-75.html