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Photographer Mary Ellen Mark Dies At 75

Amanda and her cousin Amy, Valdese, N.C., 1990

Mary Ellen Mark, the influential photographer known mostly for her humanist work, has died. She was 75.

Mark died Monday, a representative said Tuesday. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that she died in New York.

Mark's work appeared in Life, New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Her photo essay on runaway children in Seattle became the basis of Streetwise, an Academy Award-nominated film that was directed by her husband, Martin Bell.

In a 1988 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mark said she got her break while working for a Penn alumni magazine. On assignment, she met Pat Carbine, who then was managing editor of Look. Carbine later took Mark's pitch to photograph London drug clinics.

"From the very first moment I took pictures [on the streets of Philadelphia], I loved it," she told the Inquirer. "The thrill was the idea of just being on a street, turning a corner and looking for something to see. It was just an amazing feeling. ... Photography became my obsession. ... In a way it's not so different when I go out to work now. It's just that now I have years of experience in knowing how to use that little machine in front of me — at least better than I used it then. When it's good and interesting it's still that feeling of being on the street and wondering — God, I love this! — what's going to happen next?"

NPR, in a 2005 review of her work, called her "a brilliant and fearless artist," adding: "Mark's highly celebrated work is sad, spectacular, desperate, disturbing and so much who we are."

In 2012, Mark spoke to NPR about her book Prom, a collection of 127 portraits from 13 schools across the country, shot between 2006 and 2009. You can listen to that interview here:

NPR's Neda Ulaby is reporting on Mark's legacy on Wednesday's Morning Edition. Please tune in to your local public radio station to listen.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

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