Capturing Tiny, From Prostitution to Motherhood

By
Tiny and LaShawndrea, 1989.Photo: Mary Ellen Mark

Beloved documentarian Mary Ellen Mark photographed wayward, homeless, and disenfranchised youth throughout her career. For over 30 years, she followed one woman, Tiny (given name: Erin Blackwell), as she argued with her alcoholic mother; cried and smoked a cigarette in a moment of despair; and lovingly embraced her children by the side of their bathtub. In 1983, Tiny was a 13-year-old prostitute living on the streets of Seattle; in 2014, she’s a mother of ten who has overcome a serious drug addiction.

In Tiny: Streetwise Revisited, on view now until June 30 at Aperture’s gallery, we’re given an intimate look into the evolution of one woman’s life over the course of three decades. In an essay that accompanies the exhibition catalog, Chilean author Isabel Allende describes Mark as an “angel of truth” and the “silent witness of [Tiny’s] life.” Mark captures Tiny in all her complexity, with an incredible amount of honesty and compassion that make her portfolio an indelible work of photojournalism.

The films Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell and Streetwise, shot by Mark’s husband and creative partner, Martin Bell, will be shown as a double feature at BAM this Saturday, June 25. Click ahead to see heartbreaking, poignant, and beautiful photographs of Tiny’s life.