I recently saw articles on Mary Ellen Mark in a few magazines and another beautiful picture by her was published in a November issue of "The New Yorker".Every time I see her name I am thrilled since she deeply inspired me and created a new way in my own photography after having taken a few workshops with her in Oaxaca, Mexico and in Vancouver.
She is an extraordinary photographer and an extraordinary person, who made me grow as a photographer and inspired me as a person.
The very first time she saw my portfolio, before assigning me a project, her comment was: "You are not a street photographer but you are able to create atmosphere and you have a good sense of light".
Well, that comment coming from a Master photographer, I was very flattered and, knowing already my shyness in shooting strangers and being in Mexico, a catholic country, I...decided to go to churches where the atmosphere is obviously easy to create and the light of the candles make it even more magic and dramatic.
But another time, in Vancouver, she forced me to go out and take pictures of people on the street "You can do it, just challenge yourself".
So I went, felt very uncomfortable, but I needed to report back to her with my contact sheets the next day...so, after spending time on a sidewalk, watching people watch me... I finally decided to take pictures holding the camera at my waist! I set the camera at a reasonable aperture and I start shooting, just hoping that without even looking in the viewfinder something good would come up, in that simple way I was able to take good spontaneous pictures and the Master was thrilled, my ego boosted!
I have used that technique many times after, at times just a blur, or beheaded people, at times a precious moment captured.
Mary Ellen is worth at least a few minutes of your time to just simply go through her biography and the endless list of projects she undertook, all of them daring, provocative, challenging.
Her pictures speak to the heart and I feel privileged to have met her and known her for years.
Her latest book, due in Book stores this November is "Seen Behind the Scenes" (Phaidon Press)and I encourage you all to become familiar with her photography.
Mary Ellen, Thank you for inspiring me