"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Martin and Tiny, 1980's

Mary Ellen, Martin, Tiny and Tiny's first baby

Mary Ellen at a recent exhibition of her work

Mary Ellen Mark is one of my photo heroes. I studied with her for a couple weeks both in 1997 and 1999 in Oaxaca during two of her fabulous workshops and have stayed in touch with her over the years.

Even Mary Ellen, who is one of the most highly recognized and beloved photographers of our time, has had to use Kickstarter, along with her filmmaker husband Martin, to fund a dream project: an updated film and body of photographs about Tiny.

She met 13-year-old prostitute Erin "Tiny" Blackwell in 1983 when she was sent by Life Magazine to document the rough and tumble life of street kids in Seattle. The resulting book - and Academy Award nominated film (by Martin) - was called "Streetwise." That first shoot in Seattle was the beginning of a long, loving and photographically productive relationship. Mary Ellen has continued to photograph Tiny every couple years since 1983, and the two have been major forces in each others' lives. She has unflinchingly documented Tiny’s life, portraying her struggles with poverty, substance abuse and abusive partners and family.

I backed the project and continue to receive info about the work. When I do, I find myself taking another look at the photographs of Tiny from over the years. Tiny now has 10 children and is a grandmother. Her life continues to be fraught with challenges.

Mary Ellen is not only one of my photo heroes; I am happy to also call her my friend.

Watch Mary Ellen and Martin's Kickstarter video and then enjoy some of my favorite early images of Tiny.

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