On her very first trip to India in 1968, Mary Ellen Mark visited Falkland Road, the notorious red-light area in Mumbai. She tried to photograph there yet was consistently met with hostility and aggression, both from the prostitutes she sought to portray and the men who were their customers. Resilient, she returned in 1978 for a magazine assignment, and over the course of six weeks, she slowly began to make friends and finally entered the daily lives of these women: “I had no idea if I could do this,” she later recalled, “but I knew I had to try.”
Mark’s portrait of Falkland Road is beautiful and shocking, remarkable for its intimate emotional power and visceral color. Falkland Road was initially published in 1981 and with additional photos in a 2005 Steidl edition; the book has long been recognized as one of her major bodies of work.
Including Mark’s original introduction and captions as well as the new photos of the 2005 book, this latest edition—with a revised sequence, and printed from scans of the original 35mm Kodachromes—is the truest expression of her insight into this raw world, made accessible by the intensity of her involvement and compassion.
About the Author
Mary Ellen Mark gained worldwide recognition and visibility through her extensive body of work, which included numerous books, exhibitions, and editorial contributions to esteemed magazines like LIFE, New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. Over a span of more than five decades, she embarked on extensive travels, capturing images that showcased a profound sense of humanism. She is widely regarded as one of the most respected and influential photographers, and her photographs depicting the diverse cultures of our world have become iconic in the realm of documentary photography.
Among her notable works are portrayals of Mother Teresa, Indian circuses, and brothels in Bombay, all of which were the results of years of dedication to her craft in India. Her impactful photo essay on runaway children in Seattle served as the foundation for the Academy Award-nominated film “STREETWISE,” which was directed and photographed by her husband, Martin Bell.
Mary Ellen Mark received several prestigious awards and honors during her career. Notably, she was honored with the 2014 Lifetime Achievement in Photography Award from the George Eastman House and the Outstanding Contribution Photography Award from the World Photography Organisation. She also received the Infinity Award for Journalism, grants from the Erna & Victor Hasselblad Foundation and the Walter Annenberg Foundation for her project on AMERICA, and the Cornell Capa Award from the International Center of Photography, among many others.
Throughout her career, she published a total of twenty books, each showcasing her unique and powerful style. Some of her notable book titles include “Passport,” “Ward 81,” “Falkland Road,” “Indian Circus,” “Portraits,” “Streetwise,” and “Prom,” among others. Her photographs have been displayed in exhibitions all around the globe.
In addition to her photography work, Mary Ellen Mark also served as the associate producer for the motion picture “AMERICAN HEART” in 1992, directed by her husband, Martin Bell.
Her final book, “Tiny: Streetwise Revisited,” was the culmination of a remarkable 32-year documentation of Erin Blackwell, whom she first encountered in 1983 during an assignment for LIFE magazine. Erin was the central figure in both the book and the film “Streetwise,” and Martin Bell later created an updated film called “TINY: The Life of Erin Blackwell.”
In addition to her work in books and magazines, Mary Ellen Mark was also commissioned for advertising campaigns by notable brands such as Barnes and Noble, British Levis, Coach Bags, Eileen Fisher, Hasselblad, Heineken, Keds, Mass Mutual, Nissan, and Patek Philippe. Her legacy as a photographer and storyteller continues to leave a lasting impact on the world of photography and beyond.