The Connection.org has a fascinating online radio interview with photographer Mary Ellen Mark. From the program notes:
The photographer Mary Ellen Mark insists that "reality is always extraordinary." For more than forty years, she has been focusing her lens on the gritty, and often unattractive reality of people who inhabit the seamier side of society. Her first in-depth project took her to the Oregon State Mental Hospital where she spent more than a month living with female inmates.
Her decision to immerse herself in her subject matter is a trademark of her work. Whether it is the red light district of Bombay, or working with street kids in Seattle, or a homeless family in Los Angeles, Mark captures the intimate, the disturbing and the unexpected on film.
But Mark says that our interest in these picture is disappearing. All we want, she says, are the glossy, celebrity shots.
Be sure to check out her gallery of photographs while listening to the interview. I agree with Mary Ellen Mark that American culture is losing interesting in probing documentary photography. We're seeing fewer places where photographers can present their work. Japan is not that different although we still have various "gurabia" (グラビア) or photogravure magazines of astounding quality. But each year, that section of the bookstore seems to get smaller and smaller. At my favorite store in Kyoto, photography magazines share their space with magazines on anime, steam trains, and model guns. Photography has become just another otaku hobby.
(Via The Leica List.)