Mary Ellen Mark

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

Tiny showing her scarred arms, Seattle

From the series "Tiny - Nightline"

1993 (printed 2004)

Selenium toned gelatin silver print

8 11/16 x 13 in. (22.1 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. Self-harm, or self-injury, comprises a range of behaviors often seen in individuals who have suffered physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Most commonly, this behavior takes the form of “cutting”, self-infliction of lacerations using a razor blade or other sharp object. Self-harm has also been associated with drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic stress. Tiny's life in the early '90s was fraught with all of these. Frequent bouts with substance abuse led to the loss of three of her children to state custody.

Black and White
Contemporary Art
Social Class