To attempt to summarize what Mary Ellen Mark accomplished in her lifetime as a photographer would not do her justice and is probably being better represented by others in a million places across the world wide web with the news of her passing. What I can speak to with more authority is the role that her work played in my own life.
Looking back at my history with a camera in hand, it wasn't until I came upon one of her books that my true passion for the medium came to be. Timing is everything of course and it so happened that when I discovered her I was at an age where it was easier to pursue photography, but I do credit her for exposing me to a subject matter that I didn't know I loved until she came along. While I didn't, and likely never will, come remotely close to capturing photos of her caliber, through her images I felt like I learned to be brave, to stop and look at the odd, and understand that there was potentially a story to be told in some of the most unlikely places. Fear ultimately turned into fascination and composition.
She was special regardless of my perception, but it's what she ignited in me that I'm most appreciative of, even if that chapter in my shutterbug days is now a part of my past.