revisiting mary ellen mark’s powerful photos of seattle street kids

'Tiny: Revisited' features the late photography superstar's iconic photos of teenage prostitute Tiny. The series is going on show in New York this month.

by Hannah Ongley
18 May 2016, 6:35pm

© Mary Ellen Mark

In 1983, Mary Ellen Mark began shooting portraits of homeless youth in Seattle for what began as a photo essay for LIFE magazine and would ultimately become her landmark series Streetwise. It was during this period that Mark met a 13-year-old prostitute named Tiny — real name Erin Blackwell — who dreamed of having a horse farm, diamonds and furs, and ten children. Some 20 years later, Tiny had ten children, zero diamonds, and a crippling drug habit. Tiny was only one of the kids introduced to the world in Streetwise, though from the minute she appears in her "French prostitute" Halloween costume, she is the indisputable star. Mark's continued relationship with Tiny long after her first stint in Seattle had ended has resulted in a sympathetic, honest, and haunting glimpse into street life known as Tiny: Streetwise Revisited. 

This month the series will be exhibited at New York's Aperture gallery. The show will include the most powerful images from the original Streetwise series and the photographs of Tiny that Mark continued to take over the next three decades — until the photographer's death in New York City just one year ago. On view also will be the 1984 documentary film Streetwise by Mark's husband, filmmaker Martin Bell. Taking viewers from the subject as a 13-year-old in a Halloween costume to a single mom of 10, it's a journey that remains relevant as ever in the wake of Mark's passing — and as the same struggles continue to plague American youth today. 

'Tiny: Streetwise Revisited' is on display at Aperture from May 26 through June 30, 2016. 


Text Hannah Ongley
All photos © Mary Ellen Mark courtesy of Aperture

New York
Mary Ellen Mark
teenage prostitute