Mary Ellen Mark

Twins & American Odessey

Storgata 95

21. October 2006 - 22. January 2007

Mari Hildung

From 21 October 2006 through 22 January 2007, one of the most celebrated and famous photographer’s of our time, American Mary Ellen Mark, will be visiting Tromsø and North Norway for the first time with her photo exhibitions “American Odyssey” and “Twins”. The exhibitions are produced by Hasselblad Center in Gothenburg. “American Odyssey” is a retrospective exhibition of her pictures from “the other America” during the period 1963-1999. Many of the pictures in the exhibition are part of what the photographer herself has selected as her most iconic work. “Twins” contains her award-winning portraits of twins taken during the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio in 2001/2002. The film Twins, directed by her husband Martin Bell, is also being shown in the exhibition.

During the course of an extraordinary career that spans more than 40 years, Mary Ellen Mark has entered many worlds and has taken them very seriously. She herself claims that she had her breakthrough as a photographer in 1969 while following the filming of Federico Fellini’s Satyricon. In the 1970s, she was a still photographer in the world of films where she portrayed so-called celebrities, later to become involved in a number of projects in collaboration with large reporting magazines like Life Magazine and NY Times Magazine. Her naked portrayals of female patients with severe psychological dysfunctions were the direct result of Mark’s assignment during the filming of Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in a mental hospital in Oregon. Many of the photos in American Odyssey are the result of long-term assignments for magazines and newspapers, often from the photographer’s own ideas.

Mary Ellen Mark’s photographs are the result of a great artist’s work, but also of the presence of a warm and involved human being. A strong desire to get close up to, study and understand the complex, rich variations in the human existence make Mary Ellen Mark’s photographs very personal. Her great sympathy lies definitively with the unheroic ordinary person, the ones she calls The Unfamous. In many cases, they are people who, for one reason or another, find themselves on the fringes of the successful, normal America. They can be teenagers on the run, street children or orphans, or more special adaptations and cultural phenomena like rodeo riders in Texas and circus performers in Brooklyn.


Mary Ellen Mark has received a number of awards and prizes, including the Hasselblad Award in 1997 and the World Press Photo Award in 2004 for the project Twins. Mark was a member of Magnum for several years, and her pictures have been shown at galleries worldwide. She is an Honorary Doctor at two American universities and a very sought-after lecturer. Between the publication of Passport in 1974 and Exposure in 2005, she has published 14 of her own books and contributed in a large number of anthologies. In 2000, the readers of American Photo voted her the most influential woman photographer of all time. Mary Ellen Mark has unequivocally developed the genre by bringing in a new dimension to the classical documentary photograph, perhaps inspired by Fellini’s exquisite feeling for the story and the magic mood surrounding it, created by light, costumes, scenography and camerawork. In many of Mark’s pictures, there is both a little dream and a little surrealism, even though the subject in itself can be frighteningly realistic.