Mary Ellen Mark

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1940 - 2015, New York, New York)

Tiny and her mother, Pat, at the kitchen table, Seattle

From the series "Streetwise"

1983 (printed 2004)

Selenium toned gelatin silver print

12 1/2 x 18 1/2 in. (31.8 x 47.0 cm)

Collection of the Akron Art Museum

Knight Purchase Fund for Photographic Media


More Information

In 1983, Mary Ellen Mark was sent by LIFE magazine to photograph street kids in Seattle. There, she met thirteen-year-old prostitute Erin “Tiny” Blackwell. Tiny became one of the central subjects not only of Mark’s photographs, but also of the documentary film Streetwise which followed in 1984. Mark has unflinchingly documented Tiny’s life for nearly three decades, illustrating her struggles with poverty, substance abuse, and abusive partners and family, but also capturing moments of joy and intimacy. “We got into a fight. She was drunk that night. She was slappin’ on me and I was slappin’ back on her, because she hit me and I hit her back. The next day she felt really bad.” –Tiny (from the transcript of the 1984 documentary film Streetwise, by Martin Bell) Tiny and her mother, Pat, have always had a turbulent relationship. An alcoholic who was often physically and verbally abusive to her daughter, Pat was married to a man who was likewise abusive to her. It was this unpleasant home situation that prompted Tiny to seek a new life on the streets. When she was thirteen, Tiny packed her things, and her pets, and moved herself out while Pat was at a bar. Thereafter, the two lived together off and on. Currently, Tiny is still estranged from her mother, their only contact occurring when her mother calls her, usually while drunk.

Social Class
Contemporary Art
Gelatin Silver
Black and White