Steidl, 2023. Second revised edition. Clothbound hardcover, 132 pp., 76 color illustrations, 280 x 320 mm. Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark. Text by Mary Ellen Mark, Martin Bell. Design by Gregory Wakabayashi.
On her very first trip to India in 1968, Mary Ellen Mark visited Falkland Road, the notorious red-light area in Mumbai. She tried to photograph there yet was consistently met with hostility and aggression, both from the prostitutes she sought to portray and the men who were their customers. Resilient, she returned in 1978 for a magazine assignment and over the course of six weeks she slowly began to make friends and finally entered the daily lives of these women: “I had no idea if I could do this,” she later recalled, “but I knew I had to try.” Mark’s portrait of Falkland Road is beautiful and shocking, remarkable for its intimate emotional power and visceral color. Falkland Road was initially published in 1981 and with additional photos in a 2005 Steidl edition; the book has long been recognized as one of her major bodies of work. Including Mark’s original introduction and captions as well the new photos of the 2005 book, this latest edition—with a revised sequence, and printed from scans of the original 35mm Kodachromes—is the truest expression of her insight into this raw world, made accessible by the intensity of her involvement and compassion.