Mary Ellen Mark



This exhibition is not a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold story. Mary Ellen Mark, who died last year, is known for her long-running documentation of troubled people existing on the fringes of society. She first met Tiny (Erin Blackwell) when the latter was a thirteen-year-old prostitute living on the Seattle streets and occasionally with her alcoholic mother, who viewed her daughter’s prostitution as “a phase.” Mark published photos of Tiny and the seedy characters she hung around with (many of them children and young teens) in Life magazine in 1983; the following year, her husband Martin Bell released Streetwise, a film focusing on Tiny and eight others, which was nominated for an Academy Award. The black and white photos in “Tiny: Streetwise Revisited” span thirty years of Tiny’s life. We see her in some of Mark’s most iconic images from the ’80s: looking out of a window at a juvenile detention facility, a tear rolling down her cheek; hugely pregnant, lying on a bare mattress on the floor. In later photographs, we learn that she did not manage to escape the cycle of poverty and homelessness. When Tiny first met Mark, she told her that she dreamed of living on a farm with horses, wearing diamonds and furs, and having ten kids. As of 2014, only the last part has come true. —Leigh Anne Miller

Pictured: Mary Ellen Mark: Rayshon and Tiny on the Couch, 1999, gelatin silver print. Courtesy Aperture Foundation, New York.