Mary Ellen Mark
She was not concerned with pushing her own politics instead she showed the humanity of every person who stood in front of her lens. "Reality is extraordinary" a simple sentence coined by her that I came back to whenever I lost what inspired me. She lived by her principles, showed the world not as a race but as a symphony of individuals, passionately curious about what we all endure to live in the time that we were born into. Manifested her vision in black and white by showing up and asking for the truth. I came to say goodbye to her work, wore the black dress I buried my best friend in. Sitting in a white wicker chair in the last room of the exhibit mourning someone I loved but didn't know. Wondering who will carry on her legacy of meaning embedded in images now that she is gone. Her two dark braids, fierce eyes looking out behind a film camera because art should be slow, should leave room for questions, for mystery, leave room for everybody's stories.
When she saw my photos she said I took too many, that I didn't know what I was looking for. When asked for advice for new photographers she replied: "go to medical school."
I hope that I am lucky enough to spend my life seeing and developing. Showing more clarity in the pursuit of what all our stories mean, growing my bravery and my ability to listen empathetically. Demolish boundaries that keep "others" separate from "me" and this self imposed distance held by falsehoods in my identity. Grow in my faith that this vision alone will be enough reason to keep on photographing. Trust that love given to someone else will always multiply its reach.
Mary Ellen said that you're only as good as your last photograph, that risk and consistency are the marks of any genius. The pursuit of connection and confession through expression is enough for me so I vow to myself and Mary Ellen to keep on seeking and creating.