“At this point I can only see in black and white,” explains legendary photographer Mary Ellen Mark, who sat before a coffee and what’s left of a pastry. She is in Madrid to give a workshop at the international photography school PHotoEspaña Alcobendas, and to inaugurate on Friday an exhibition in cultural space La Fábrica featuring a selection of some of her best-known shots from the world of cinema.
For years this slight woman, who wears her hair in long black braids, spent her time capturing some of the best-known images of giants of the film world, such as Federico Fellini, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Luis Buñuel and Dustin Hoffman. But her work stretches beyond just the shooting of movie sets such as those of Apocalypse Now or Tristana, and also includes photographic investigations of street children, prostitutes on the streets of India, traveling circuses and identical twins.
Mary Ellen Mark with Marlon Brando on the set of Apocalypse Now, in a photo taken by Stefani Kong Uhler.
“I don’t know if I could do those jobs now; the relationship with the camera has changed so much…,” she explains. “Here in Madrid I’m going to ask my students for three things: that they do a self-portrait, which is very difficult; that they do a portrait of someone close to them of their choosing; and that they don’t bring me a single image taken with their cellphone. Instagram is completely banned.”
The photographer points at the closest cellphone and explains: “We cannot confuse communication with photography. Nor privacy with photography. New technology is killing the mystery, and the process is being lost. There are lots of magazines these days, but the reality is that there is not a single magazine. No one wants to go into any depth anymore. With young people, I try to help them without being a pain, but at the same time always being honest. That’s why I always say that it’s really hard to take a good photo, and that not everyone can do so because it’s even more difficult to develop a point of view, and then to defend it.”
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