Mary Ellen Mark & Karen Folger Jacobs – Ward 81: Voices
Ward 81, photographed in 1976, was Mary Ellen Mark’s first independent long-term project. Mark and writer Karen Folger Jacobs set out to document the lives of the women in this locked ward at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem—the only one in the state. Every day for five weeks, Mark photographed and Jacobs interviewed the women on Ward 81. At night they slept in an empty adjacent ward.
Ward 81: Voices, an expanded edition of the original 1979 book, includes previously unpublished photographs, excerpts from interviews with patients and recorded conversations between Mark and Jacobs, as well as new essays examining the influence of their project. Ward 81 has always been considered one of the best examples of Mark’s ability to portray subjects living on the edges of society with compassion. The inclusion of the women’s voices gives invaluable insight, not only into the lives of the patients, but also into Mark and Jacobs’ experiences and the challenges they faced during their collaboration.
Exhibition: The Image Centre, Toronto, 25 January to 1 April 2023
|Martin Bell, Julia Bezgin, Meredith Lue