Mary Ellen Mark

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

Tiny blowing a bubble, Seattle

From the series "Streetwise"

1983 (printed 2004)

Selenium toned gelatin silver print

8 3/4 x 13 in. (22.4 x 33.0 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. “(Prostitution) is just a phase she’s going through right now. I can’t stop her from doing this. She’s just going to do it anyway.” –Tiny’s mother, Pat (from the transcript of the 1984 documentary film Streetwise, by Martin Bell) Tiny, who earned her nickname by being, in her words, “exceptionally small”, began earning her living through prostitution at age thirteen. It was in that year that Mary Ellen Mark first met her, as she was exiting a taxicab on her way to a Seattle discotheque. Mark recalls that Tiny and her friend, who was only eleven, were wearing “tight sweaters, tight jeans, and lots of make-up… like little girls playing dress-up”.

Contemporary Art
Social Class
Black and White
Gelatin Silver