Mary Ellen Mark: Eyeing Life

Follow us throughout the fall for posts which highlight library resources and information that support the Tiny: Streetwise Revisited exhibit at the Central Library and its community programming.

The undiffused difference between the placid suburb of her youth and the rough-edged city that surrounded it became quickly apparent. In she went with her lens widening as a jagged journey ensued. Lengths and dimensions of lives spread across cityscapes of lost dreams, nightmarish realities, and undying hope.

Tiny on Pike Street Seattle, Washington, 1983

Mary Ellen Mark made her mark when the book Streetwise was first published in 1988.  Within the reeking insides of a city, runaway children observed yet another stranger inserting herself into the frame of their lives.  Who else could she be except a question dangling itself before their eyes until it, too, disappeared after having received an answering look.

Look, I don’t have to tell you that in this world there are streets not meant to be crossed and sidewalks one dare not step onto less the last step at the far end of the block means curbing your own life. The innocent are not spared, the guilty go on to greater gory and there, midway, on that tumultuous street is a woman with a camera that haunts the harm.  She knows how, even absent the suburban enclave of a carefully manicured life, life remains hungry for itself.  A woman with a camera arrives a stranger and leaves with your face in her hands.

Tiny Seattle, Washington, 1983

Cities change and are altered beyond recognition. People hold on, like Tiny at the amusement park with “Horsey,” 1983 (at left) to dreams in the sculpted air of “there.” Perhaps, you know how Mary Ellen Mark found her way to a Seattle that no longer exists. In the “most liveable” city of that year, homeless teens struggled to survive their sorrow.  That city now groans under the weight of more. More families, more men, more women, and teens bedding down making sidewalks, tents, and shelters into a place not-to-be-called home.

In 1983 you could easily, miss Tiny and her crew, but the Seattle of today offers no such respite from reality. This fall The Seattle Public Library will host the exhibit Tiny: Streetwise Revisited.  What did life deliver to the woman Erin Blackwell, the girl whose street name was Tiny? Her story brought Mary Ellen Mark and her work greater prominence.  The exhibit offers an opportunity for us to revisit the Seattle of then in view of the Seattle of now. Like Tiny, every city has its dreams, hopes, aspirations, and failures.

A photograph is a key to the door of a past we can reenter. Photojournalists and documentary photographers hold the keys. Their images unlock the past so that the future may enter its own long-forgotten rooms.  Long after a moment has been forgotten, it can be revisited and seen in a new light.

Delve into this dimension. Check out the resource lists, attend film screenings, and public events.  Your eyes will certainly be talking.  Keep talking.

These lists were created by a librarian at The Seattle Public Library for the “Streetwise Revisited: A 30-Year Journey” exhibit, September 15th through November 3rd, 2016 at the Central Library. 

Discover the work of acclaimed documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark in these books by and about her: Streetwise Revisted: Mary Ellen Mark, Eyeing Life

Mary Ellen Mark’s arresting photographs documented lives at society’s margins that might otherwise be ignored. Discover other street and documentary photographers with a similar focus and learn more about the genre in these resources: Streetwise Revisited: Documentary and Street Photography

~ posted by Chris

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