Mary Ellen Mark/Ward 81

Mary Ellen Mark/Ward 81 Book Review

Mary Ellen Mark/Ward 81

“Ward 81” is a book of photographs by Mary Ellen Mark documenting the Oregon State Hospital Ward 81 in 1976. It started when Mary Ellen was assigned by a magazine to do a story on the making of the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest “(shot on location at the Oregon State Hospital). She spent a little over a month living in Ward 82 documenting it. I loved everything about this book; there wasn’t a picture I didn’t like. The photos are shot in black and white film with no caption or anything about the photo, but even without any information each photo tells a different story about the life and what these women go though and do at the ward. There is a short introduction/story at the beginning of the book and a few extra printing notes at the end of the book. There are a few photos that stand out. The first is of a patient sitting in her bed with her scarred arm (from cutting herself) facing you, behind her are pictures/posters as well as a name and I wish to die written on the wall. The second one is one of the patients sitting smoking a cigarette (her head is cut off) and you see this huge chunk of skin missing from her leg (along with other cuts). One of the most intense/disturbing parts is the electro shock therapy photo. They show one of the patients going through the electro shock and you can just see the pain in her face and the way her neck muscles/tendons/veins are bulging out of her skin. The only things I didn’t like about the book is I wanted to be able to match the patients with the introduction story to get a sense of who each one was (some of them I could) and that it made me want to see more photos.

Kristen Blaul

Here’s the link to an excellent article on Mary Ellen Mark By Karen Folger Jacobs on the American Suburb X website:




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