Urgent Museum Notice

Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood

A black and white photograph of a young girl wearing a dress and coat jumping over a brick wall. Three other figures lean over the wall in the upper right corner of the composition. The jumping girl is the only figure who is in focus.
Mar 03 to Aug 08, 2021

An icon of modern photography, Mary Ellen Mark (1940–2015) created compassionate and candid portraits of subjects living outside of mainstream society. From street children in Seattle to circus performers in India, Mark captured the lives and stories of individuals with empathy, humor, and candor. Through the lens of her camera, she cut through social and societal barriers to champion overlooked communities in the United States, India, Mexico, the former Soviet Union, and other countries.

Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood examines Mark’s depictions of girls and young women living in a variety of circumstances around the globe. While Mark photographed people from all walks of life, she was particularly interested in children. “I don’t like to photograph children as children,” Mark said. “I like to see them as adults, as who they really are. I’m always looking for the side of who they might become.”

Made possible by a recent donation from the Photography Buyers Syndicate of more than 160 Mary Ellen Mark works, this presentation includes approximately 30 photographs that span the artist’s 50-year career—from her earliest work in Turkey in the 1960s to images taken on Polaroid film in the early 2000s. Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood highlights some of the artist’s best-known series, including “Prom,” “Streetwise,” and “Twins,” offering viewers an intriguing glimpse into the artist’s wondrous and uncanny vision of girlhood.

A black and white photograph of a young girl posing with her hip out and hand on her chin. She stares directly into the camera while wearing a ruffled dress, hair bow, and buckled shoes. Behind her is a stone wall that a younger child leans against.

Mary Ellen Mark, Emine Dressed Up for Republic Day, Trabzon, Turkey, 1965 (printed later); Gelatin silver print, 20 x 16 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Frieder K. Hofmann; Photo by Lee Stalsworth; © Mary Ellen Mark/The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

Exhibition Sponsors

Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood, presented in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, is organized by the museum and generously supported by the members of NMWA.

Related Media

Online Exhibition

A black and white photograph of women and children preparing a grave in the dirt outdoors. An adolescent girl stands to the side observing. She wears a light colored, patterned dress, and her dark hair is pulled back into a low ponytail. To her right, a woman with dark hair and a dark shawl leans down over a plant. Five other figures stand near her.
Can't visit in person? Explore this online exhibition featuring photographs that reflect Mary Ellen Mark’s wondrous and uncanny vision of girlhood.

Large Print Labels

A black-and-white photograph of a light-skinned girl submerged in a white bathtub. Only her head is visible above the soap suds, and her dark hair hangs over the side of the tub. The floor beneath the tub is tiled.
Access all exhibition object labels in large print format for ease of reading as you explore the galleries.

Related Blog Post

Mark often took personal interest in those she met and photographed. Learn about the photographer's relationships with several of her subjects, who she portrayed with empathy, humor, and candor.
View of the museum from outside showing the Neoclassical building from one corner. The building is a tan-colored stone with an arched doorway, long vertical windows, and detailed molding around the roof.
Mary Ellen Mark, Laurie in the Bathtub, Ward 81, Oregon State Hospital, Salem, Oregon, 1976 (printed later); Gelatin silver print, 20 x 24 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Susan and Earl Cohen; Photo by Lee Stalsworth; © Mary Ellen Mark/The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation