Mary Ellen Mark

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

Tiny with her friends on Pike Street, Seattle

From the series "Streetwise"

1983 (printed 2004)

Selenium toned gelatin silver print

8 3/4 x 12 15/16 in. (22.4 x 32.8 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. “I think it’s very strange that older men like little girls. They’re perverts, is what they is. I like the money, but I don’t like them.” –Tiny (from the transcript of the 1984 documentary film Streetwise, by Martin Bell) Tiny and two of her friends, also prostitutes, hang out on Pike Street. These underage hookers often also had underage pimps; “popcorn pimps”, as they were known on the street. Pimps supposedly provide protection and stability. The older, veteran pimps were typically abusive and threatening to the girls. Younger pimps probably seemed a much more attractive choice for “representation”.

Social Class
Black and White
Contemporary Art
Gelatin Silver