Composition as found in the photographs of Mary Ellen Mark

Recently I came across a collection of Mary Ellen Mark’s celebrity portraits. While looking through this collection I noticed that they are all visually appealing and nicely composed. Below are ten of my favorite celebrity portraits by photographer Mary Ellen Mark and my reasoning for why their composition is stellar.

WOODY ALLEN

BY MARY ELLEN MARK

I like this photo of Woody Allen because it shows his distinct personality, while also being visually interesting. With regards to composition, what stands out to me first is the umbrella and how it perfectly frames his face and shoulders. The umbrella’s receding blackness contrasts nicely with his skin tone, shirt and sweater and puts the focus on his face. I also like the texture and focus that the white fence behind him adds to the picture. The fence also nicely creates the first third section for the rule of thirds to work in this photo.

DITA VON TEESE

BY MARY ELLEN MARK

As far as I know, Dita Von Teese is a famous burlesque performer. I like that this photo has a nice balance of black and white images. If Von Teese had been in this photo alone it would have been too much but the white-as-snow bunny adds contrast and interest. I also like the scale that is presented with the tall woman and the small rabbit. It’s something small but it adds a tiny sense of whimsy to this photo.

PAUL HAGGIS

BY MARY ELLEN MARK

This is a photograph from The New Yorker of film director Paul Haggis. I like this photo because I like the layering. It’s a very simply posed portrait but the textured clouds that provide the background to this photograph add something special. It truly looks like Haggis is laying on-top of the rolling hills, which then look like they are laying on-top of the clouds. The background is actually more interesting than the subject.

JOHNNY DEPP & TIM BURTON

BY MARY ELLEN MARK

This is a great photograph of actor Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton due to the geometric forms that are present. Both of them are sitting in the same position and their crossed hands make a semi-triangle. The bench they are sitting on also makes nice rectangle shapes when paired with their legs and feet. Finally, their heads are also slightly tilted in the same direction and this creates funny oblong shapes.

DUSTIN HOFFMAN

BY MARY ELLEN MARK

I love this photograph of Dustin Hoffman for more than just the fact that I love Dustin Hoffman’s acting. The repeating pattern of the chain link fence is fantastic, especially the way it is reflected on his face, sweatshirt and jeans. I also like how the fence is acting like a radii, physically drawing the eye to the dreamy emotion on Dustin Hoffman’s face and then fading out into the horizon. Composition wise this is a very strong photograph.

JOHNNY DEPP

BY MARY ELLEN MARK

This is another photo of Johnny Depp. I believe this is when they were taking publicity shots for the film “Sleepy Hollow.” Decisive moment plays into this photograph because she captured the exact moment when the hairdresser was fussing with Johnny Depp’s hair and the same moment when Johnny Depp had his eyes closed. Things are also placed perfectly with the hairdresser’s body shape nicely framing Johnny Depp and the photo that they are using of Depp being partially visible.

CIRCUS PERFORMERS

BY MARY ELLEN MARK

This is a great photographer by Mary Ellen Mark of circus performers in the big top. What really makes this photograph stand out are the shapes and lines that are created by the criss-crossed ropes and canvas panels. There are a lot of visible triangles, the most successful of which bring the viewer’s eye to the bowed head of the giraffe. I also like the squiggly lines that are created by the rope on the hay flooring.

CAST OF ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST

BY MARY ELLEN MARK

This photograph does a good job of representing peak action. Mary Ellen Mark managed to capture a variety of actors when they each had an animated look on their face. Plus, there are some pretty kooky expressions in this picture. This is more than just a picture of actors on the set of a film, it is actually more like a photograph of actors playing their characters. The angle of this photo is nice too because each actor is a different height and that is represented in the zig-zag pattern that their heads make by going up and down.

LIZA MINELLI

BY MARY ELLEN MARK

The contrast in this photo is beautiful. The white of Liza Minelli’s skin tone is nicely balanced against the black of her outfit, the black of her hair and the grey of the background. I also like the circles that her corset makes and the triangles that her arms create by being akimbo. The rule of thirds is also present in the background with the wall or post breaking up the first third of the picture.

JEFF BRIDGES

BY MARY ELLEN MARK

This is a great photo of actor Jeff Bridges. I love the repeating patterns and shapes that created by the ripples of the water. The ovals of his eyes and head look nice against the dark colored ovals of the water and bubbles. He’s not directly centered either, which is nice. The form of his head actually has room at both the top and bottom of the screen to “breathe.” I also like how the light is reflected in the water.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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