8 Weeks of Portraits

Week 3: Mary Ellen Mark

The photographer we are studying in Week 3 is Mary Ellen Mark, a documentary photographer who recently passed away.  Mark undertook documentary projects of various forms - photographing Prom for several high schools, traveling globally to document "A Day In The Life" of different cultures, documenting street kids in Seattle - the list goes on.

I'm not a street photographer, so I was trying to get my influence from some of her posed portraits.  One image that struck me was part of a series Mark did on twins.  There was a photograph of two older women, twins, standing outside in matching dresses, smoking.  Why it resonated, I have no idea.  But I got the idea that instead of finding twins, I'd look for a set of sisters.  I reached out to a good friend from college, Anabelle Velez Forte, and she agreed to participate with her sister.  She suggested a park close to where we all live, because her parents used to take their family there when they were younger. 

As I waited for my "models" to arrive, I came across two gentlemen playing a lively game of backgammon.  After scouting the location for my sisters' shoot, I trepidatiously stopped by the two men and asked if I could take their picture.  The response was a resounding "sure," followed by a question as to whether I was with the local paper.  After a quick chuckle, I told them that I wasn't with the paper.  Regardless, they let me snap away, and I captured this picture of the pair in action.

The sisters arrived right on time and we walked around a nearby pond to try different locations.  They were great sports, despite the 90 degree heat, and they remained looking lovely the entire time we were shooting.  I, on the other hand, was an absolute puddle.  Regardless, I captured what I think are some authentic looking images of the pair, but this was my favorite.

I wish I was a bit more brave about stepping out of my comfort zone and asking more strangers to take their photos, but I'm taking baby steps.  Hopefully, I'll do it more and with better results. 

Next week's photographer is back in the studio - Francesco Scavullo!