Mary Ellen Mark
[Photographer, b. 1940, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, d. 2015, New York.]

 By making a frame you’re being selective, then you edit the pictures you want published and you’re being selective again. You develop a point of view that you want to express. You try to go into a situation with an open mind, but then you form an opinion, and you express it in your photographs. 
 I want my photographs not only to be real but to portray the essence of my subjects also. In order to do that, you have to be patient. 
 To touch on people’s lives [in a way they] haven’t been touched on before, it’s fascinating. You know, it’s one thing if [a celebrity] has an incredible character and you’re really going to be able to delve into their personality—that’s great. But you can never get real purity if people have been spoiled by the camera and don’t trust you. I like feeling that I’m able to be a voice for those people who aren’t famous, the people that don’t have the great opportunities. 
 I think you have to have a real point of view that’s your own. You have to tell it your way. And, I think that it’s a mistake to shoot for a specific magazine’s point of view because it’s never going to be as good. You have to shoot for yourself and photograph [the way] you believe it. 
 I prefer not to think ahead about what I’m going to say with my photographs. I would rather be surprised and see what my subjects bring to the photograph. 
 A good print is really essential. I want to take strong documentary photographs that are as good technically as any of the best technical photographs, and as creative as any of the best fine-art photographs. [That is doubly important because] I don’t want to just be a photo essayist; I’m more interested in single images... ones that I feel are good enough to stand on their own. 
 I want to be a voice for the unfamous people. Those are the people who interest me. Whether it’s a guy in Miami Beach who goes to a dance or it’s someone who’s dying in Ethiopia, they’re the unfamous people that I care about. I feel a certain purity in them that’s real, and I want to document their lives. 
 I’m trying to please myself; certainly that’s a big criterion... though in a sense, I don’t take images just for myself. I take images that I think other people will want to see. I don’t take pictures to put in a box and hide them. I want as many people to see them as possible. 
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