Most documentary photography, especially from the peripheries of society where Mark has spent so much time, offers an interpretation from an outside perspective and the work produced here is no exception.
Exposure brings together her most personal photographs from the past 40 years; Mark made the selection herself, whittling them down to just 134 images. The result is a fascinating insight into many unknown and misunderstood peoples from around the globe, many of whom are from India and the United States. What unfolds cannot be read like a piece of expository journalism but, instead, each page is a benchmark in the emotional life of this photographer, as well as a mirror to what she faced when the shutter button was pressed.
American-born Mark grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and studied fine arts and photography and communications at the University of Pennsylvania. She moved to New York City in 1966 with the sole aim of becoming a professional photographer. I've never met her, but after spending just a few days flicking through the pages of Exposure, it seems as though I know her thoughts.
This book is the CV of a woman who immerses herself in other people's lives for long periods of time, forming deep emotional connections that allow her to be there with her camera for their most revealing moments. Mark's deliberate choice leaves no doubt that each picture is meaningful to the her in a special way; much of her best work is with Indian children, and adolescent girls in particular, although she's clearly adept at capturing many diverse subjects with deep understanding.
But is this not just another documentary book? What's different about it? Well, for starters, Mark takes us in deeper and closer to a more personal, intimate level. From pictures of a family living in a dilapidated, deserted ranch, to intimate shots of patients at the Oregon State Mental Hospital, Mark demonstrates the diversity of her photography and the trust she instils in her subjects.
Easily navigable with accompanying text for each image to aid understanding, the large and pragmatic design allows readers to absorb the rich and grainy black and white imagery with ease. What's more, captions are left until last, allowing readers time to pass judgement free of preconceptions.
Mark exposes herself as an intimate outsider with a beady eye for detail and extra-sensory perception attuned to the absurdities of everyday life. Humanity and skill demonstrated in a whopping, doorstep of a book: fascinating, sometimes depressing and utterly involving.