Legendary photographer Mary Ellen Mark leaves behind social legacy

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Photographer Mary Ellen Mark died May 25, 2015 at the age of 75. She is best known for her striking portraiture and investigative documentary work, which spanned over 40 years.

Mark’s emotional photographs capture the lives of those often overlooked and underappreciated. Her work took her around the world, from India to homeless shelters across upstate New York.

“I’m just interested in people on the edges,” she told The New York Times in a 1987 interview. “I feel an affinity for people who haven’t had the best breaks in society. I’m always on their side. I find them more human maybe. What I want to do more than anything is acknowledge their existence.”

One of her most well-known works is a collection of photographs taken of homeless youth in Seattle from the early 1980s. Mark had traveled to the city on assignment with LIFE Magazine in the hope of capturing the underside of what at the time was billed as “America’s most livable city.”

“By choosing America’s ideal city we were making the point,” Mark would later write. “If street kids exist in a city like Seattle then they can be found everywhere in America, and we are therefore facing a major social problem of runaways in this country.”

“What you look for in a picture is a metaphor,” she told The New York Times. “Something that means something more, that makes you think about things you’ve seen or thought about.”

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