In 1983, photographer Mary Ellen Mark began a project called Streetwise that, five years later, would become a poignant document of a fiercely independent group of homeless and troubled youth who made their way on the streets of Seattle as pimps, prostitutes, panhandlers, and small-time drug dealers. Streetwise received critical acclaim for its honest, unvarnished portrayal of life on the streets and introduced us the public to characters not easily forgotten, including, “Tiny” (Erin Charles), a 13-year-old prostitute with dreams of a horse farm, diamonds and furs, and a baby of her own. Now, almost 45, Tiny has 10 children, and her life has unfolded in unexpected ways. After meeting Tiny 30 years ago, Mark continued to photograph her, creating what has become one of Mark’s most significant, and ultimately her last, long-term project. (She passed away in May at age 75.)
Tiny: Streetwise Revisited is a rare examination of intergenerational poverty, radiating out to issues of homelessness, education, healthcare, addiction, mental health, and child welfare. Mark’s images provide powerful insight into some of the more complex challenges of contemporary American life, yet also reveal the unique 30-year relationship between an artist and her subject.
Organized by Aperture Foundation, New York. Special thanks to Chuck Kelton for making the exhibition prints, and to ILFORD, for graciously donating the ILFORD Multigrade FB Classic Gloss paper. This exhibition’s presentation at the Norton is made possible through the generosity of Diana Barrett and Bob Vila. With additional support from The Gioconda and Joseph King Endowment for Exhibitions.