Mary Ellen Mark.
Photography by Mary Ellen Mark; foreword by Milos Forman; text by Karen Folger Jacobs.
Damiani, 2008. 96 pp., 85 duotone illustrations., 13x9".
In 1975, photographer Mary Ellen Mark was assigned by The
Pennsylvania Gazette to produce a story on the making of Milos
Forman’s film of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over the
Cuckoo’s Nest, shot on location at the Oregon State Hospital, a
mental institution. While on set, Mark met the women of Ward
81, the only locked hospital security ward for women in the state:
The inmates were considered dangerous to themselves or to others.
In February of 1976, just before the ward closed (it ceased to
exist in November of 1977, when it became the female section of
a coeducational treatment ward), Mark and Karen Folger Jacobs, a
writer and social scientist, were given permission to make a more
extended stay, living on the ward in order to photograph and
interview the women. They spent 36 days on Ward 81, photographing
and documenting. Jacobs recalls their slow, inevitable
assimilation: “We felt the degeneration of our own bodies and the
erosion of our self-confidence. We were horrified at the thought
of what we might become after a year or two of confinement and
therapy on Ward 81.” This new hardcover edition adds 10 pictures
to the original.