RIP Mary Ellen Mark

I once heard a story about two women in a small town in Czechoslovakia. At the end of World War II, as victory drew near and the Germans were forced to flee before the Russian advance, each woman took to the streets in euphoria and attacked the retreating German tanks, yelling abuse and throwing stones. The Germans fired on the first woman and killed her instantly. The second woman, for reasons unknown, was ignored by the fleeing army. Screaming hysterically, she was led away by her compatriots and taken to a mental institution where the doctors finally managed to pacify her.

The woman who had been killed became a hero. Her photograph made the front pages of the newspapers. Her name appeared later in schoolbooks. A street was named after her. The woman who had been ignored spent five years in a mental institution. As far as I know no one ever bothered to photograph her.

Milos Forman

from the forward to Ward 81, a collection of photographs by Mary Ellen Mark published in 1979.  Forman met Mark while filming One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest which was shot on location at the Oregon State Hospital.


Obituary for Mary Ellen Mark: