Back in 2005, when I thought I wanted to be a photographer, I took a few classes at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in NYC. One was a lighting class taught by one of Mary Ellen Mark’s previous assistants (who had since moved on to do lighting at a museum). To my surprise and delight, Mary Ellen Mark was actually a student in the class. She showed up, took notes, did the assignments and asked questions. She was also very generous with her time (and stories) and she indulged all of our incredibly naïve questions about her her work and career. She even signed my book (see below).
Like the rest of the photography community, I’m very saddened to hear of her death today. I didn’t know her personally, but she has always been one of my favorite photographers. And her kindness and complete lack of pretension is something that has always stuck with me and something that I will always remember when I look at her work. RIP MEM.