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Michael Glorioso and Eliza Wierzbinska, Staten Island, New York, 2006 Polaroid. 20 x 24 inches (61 x 50.8 cm) Image courtesy of the artist and © Mary Ellen Mark


Prom: Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark

July 1–October 28, 2012

Between 2006 and 2009, American photographer Mary Ellen Mark visited thirteen high school proms to create portraits of attendees with a 20-by-24-inch Polaroid Land Camera. Only five such cameras exist, and they make extraordinary and unique large-format prints. Mark used the camera previously for her 2003 project Twins, and in Prom she applies it to the quintessential American coming-of-age ritual, selecting high schools from across the country that reflect the regional and class differences among Americans. Approximately sixty of Mark's portraits are included in the exhibition, demonstrating the egalitarian spirit of her project and the continuing democratic potential of photography. Prom: Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark is presented in conjunction with the J. Paul Getty Museum's publication of the book by the same name, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art is the first public venue of photographs from this series. Mark's husband, filmmaker Martin Bell, produced a 33-minute video about the portrait subjects at the same time Mark made her photographs. Bell's film is a touching and humorous window into the project and a superb complement to the photographs. Mark (born 1940) is a native Philadelphian and a graduate of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. One of the schools represented in this series is her alma mater, Cheltenham High School, in Wyncote, Pennsylvania.

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Peter Barberie, The Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center

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