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Mary Ellen Mark

Tiny kissing La Shawndrea, Seattle

From the series "Homeless Teenagers"

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

1989 (printed 2004)

Selenium toned gelatin silver print

8 11/16 x 12 15/16 in. (22.1 x 32.8 cm)

Collection of the Akron Art Museum

Knight Purchase Fund for Photographic Media

2004.23

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. La Shawndrea, or “Shawnie”, has had difficulties as she’s gotten older. She often skips school, preferring to hang out downtown with what her mother calls “the wrong people”, drinking alcohol, smoking, and likely using drugs. It is not hard to find disturbing parallels between Shawnie’s life and the life her mother led when she was a teenager.

Keywords
American
Poverty
Parental Love
Child
Mother
Social Class
Contemporary Art
Documentary
Black and White
Photography
Kissing