A 30-Year Gaze

When you were 18 and I was 17, and I decided to leave high school, my grandmother asked for a picture of me for her bookshelf. She wanted a portrait to place next to the framed photos of her other grandchildren, all smiling in caps and gowns. I gave her the picture that you had taken in the field behind my house, cropped to hide my unbuttoned dress, my splotchy chest. Although our relationship didn’t last, for the next 30 years I had to look at a picture of me looking at you.

— Bethany Dorau

Source: New York Times

The story of the girl in Mary Ellen Mark’s iconic photo


Amanda and her Cousin Amy: Mary Ellen Mark photographed Amanda Marie Ellison, 9 (right), and Amy Minton Velasquez, 8, in Valdese, North Carolina, in 1990.

(Courtesy of Mary Ellen Mark Studio and Library)

A good photograph can speak volumes about its subjects, yet still leave you wanting to know more.

The acclaimed and prolific American photographer Mary Ellen Mark, who died May 25 at the age of 75, was known for her humanist portraits: homeless children in Seattle, prostitutes in India, a family living out of its car. In 1990, she took one of her most memorable shots, titled Amanda and her cousin Amy.

“This photograph raises a lot of questions and leaves me with a slightly uneasy feeling,” says Jeff Jacobson, a New York photographer and a friend of Mark’s. “That, I feel, over and over again is the hallmark of her best work.”

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