By Mary Ellen Mark
University of Texas Press, $60.00, 167 pages
Men and Beast showcases unusual and exceptional black-and-white photography regarding the people and cultures of two distant countries – physically distant – but to photographer Mary Ellen Mark, very similar. The book is a large-formatted, high-end production with extra heavy cover and thick, glossy paper, suitable for the most sophisticated coffee table. Her subjects are in Mexico and India in which she traveled extensively for many years. From the title you would expect both animals and people in most photographs but in many, no animals appear; when they do, they are often dogs.
“Most of the images in this book are about the relationship between man and animals…”
Her hundred-and-six plates span through a period from late 1960s to the present. The book starts with an extensive Q&A interview through which we gain an understanding of the author, plus several smaller photos of her. Brief captions for the photos appear at the end of the book; these are nice to read and give perspective to each photo and its location. Nearly all of the human subjects are posed and the unusual posing is an important part of Mark’s artwork. Many wear masks, head dresses, face paints and unusual dress-up outfits, and since many photos are taken in a circus, subjects often wear their performance outfits.
Reviewed by George Erdosh