30 years ago, Mary Ellen Mark captured Seattle’s child prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers. A new book revisits that journey and sees where they are now
"I’m interested in reality, and I am interested in survival. I’m interested in people who aren’t the lucky ones, who maybe have a tougher time surviving, and telling their story,” said late-photographer Mary Ellen Mark. A documentary photographer-filmmaker whose book and film (alongside husband Martin Bell) Streetwise shook the world with its harrowing look into the lives of nine children residing in “America's most livable city”, Seattle.
Namely focusing on a 14-year-old prostitute named Erin Blackwell, aka Tiny, the images were originally published in 1983 in LIFE magazine’s article “Streets of the Lost”, giving names and voices to the city’s forgotten youth. Rather than a fly on the wall, Mark – who passed away at the age of 75 earlier this year – immersed herself in the lives of those she was capturing, with an aim to highlight that homelessness was not limited to adults, but that children were living on the streets too.
“I’m interested in reality, and I am interested in survival. I’m interested in people who aren’t the lucky ones, who maybe have a tougher time surviving, and telling their story” – Mary Ellen Mark
Three decades after the original images were released Streetwise: Tiny Revisited has just been released by Aperture, following a successful Kickstarter and Facebook campaign to produce a follow up. Tiny, now in her 40s and a mother to ten children, was a regular fixture in Ellen’s work and life until the photographer’s death in May this year, and Streetwise: Tiny Revisited is an intimate study of that logevity between the photographer and her subject. Featuring never-before-published images, transcripts of conversations between Tiny and Ellen, as well as Ellen’s husband Bell, the follow up proves that, even 30 years on, these images of Tiny and her gang of pimps, prostitutes, panhandlers, and small-time drug dealers, alongside the shattering of innocence too soon, are still as powerful and poignant as ever.
Streetwise: Tiny Revisited – published by Aperture – is available now