"Reality is always extraordinary." — Mary Ellen Mark
For many people, Mary Ellen Mark’s work needs no introduction. Her latest monograph, Prom, done in collaboration with her husband the film maker, Martin Bell, who also interviewed the sitters, was published in April. Since then, the exhibit for Prom has traveled: most recently to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and tomorrow night to the Janet Borden Gallery where it will be up until the 19th of January.
With her 20x24 Polaroid Land Camera and signature lighting, Mary Ellen Mark explores the peculiarly American rite-of-passage known as the “Prom.” While, to my tastes, these portraits are not a departure from her other polaroid portrait series, Twins, this latest body of work is still excellent and distinctively Mary Ellen Mark.
The details matter. Taken over a period of four years and thirteen different High Schools, these photographs, carefully examined, reflect layers of American culture. The clothes, the postures and the gaze—all provide clues. These teens mirror our economic and social realities, and in doing so, reveal ourselves. —Lane Nevares