This remarkably engaging, occasionally unsettling photo essay by the internationally acclaimed photographer of Seen Behind the Scene, Exposure, Falkland Road, and Ward 81 presents powerful images, most never before published, that probe the humanity of animals and the lurking beast within humans.
Mary Ellen Mark is an internationally acclaimed photographer who has long been fascinated by the complex relationships between people and animals—as she puts it, “the anthropomorphic quality of animals, and the animalistic quality of man.” This fascination has lured her again and again to Mexico and India, two countries that, despite their many differences, share “a primal force . . . that makes the relationship between man and beast even more obvious. There is a more fundamental and intimate working relationship between the people and animals, and this relationship is something I am drawn too and try to convey in many of my photographs.”
Man and Beast presents an extended photo essay comprising images from Mexico and India that span some forty years. Many of the Indian images were taken while Mark was working on her classic book Indian Circus (1983), but most of the photographs have never been previously published. Infused with an unsentimental poignancy and a fully intentional anthropomorphism, Mark’s photographs of animals, circus performers, children, and others are sometimes ironic, occasionally unsettling, but always remarkably engaging. Accompanying the images are a photographer’s statement and a conversation between Mark and Melissa Harris, editor-in-chief, Aperture Foundation, covering Mark’s lifelong passion for animals, her experiences photographing them in circuses with their trainers, and her efforts to portray the humanity of animals and the lurking beast within humans.
Mark has published eighteen books, including Seen Behind the Scene, Exposure, Falkland Road, and Ward 81. Her photo essays and portraits have appeared in such publications as LIFE, New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. Mark’s many honors include the Cornell Capa Award from the International Center of Photography, the Infinity Award for Journalism, Photographer of the Year Award from the Friends of Photography, the World Press Award for Outstanding Body of Work throughout the Years, the Victor Hasselblad Cover Award, and two Robert F. Kennedy Awards. Her photographs have been collected by major museums in the United States, Europe, and Australia.
"[the] photographs are wise, warm and complicated. Like Helen Levitt, Mark is fascinated by the inner lives of children, but rather than capturing their play, their little dramas, she has them sit for immensely dignified portraits. And in Man and Beast, she extends that dignity to the world of animals." ―Parul Sehgal, New York Times Sunday Book Review
“It was great to work with Bill and the people at the University of Texas Press who published the book. They make beautiful books. I really admire what they do and it was a really pleasant experience.” ―Leica Camera blog
“There are echoes of other photographers in Man and Beast but if you’re willing to engage with the gazes her subjects throw right back at you, the book and the exhibition are experiences that not only are entirely of Mark’s making but actively make you a part of them too.” ―Aether
Helena Christensen & Portrait Photographer Mary Ellen Mark from Capture™ Ep. 7 from the Reserve Channel
Starting at the 6:20 mark, Mary Ellen Mark discusses her work documenting the circus performers of India with supermodel Helena Christensen and Mark Seliger.