Ward 81: Voices



Ward 81, photographed in 1976, was Mary Ellen Mark’s first independent long-term project. Mark and writer Karen Folger Jacobs set out to document the lives of the women in this locked ward at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem—the only one in the state. Every day for five weeks, Mark photographed and Jacobs interviewed the women on Ward 81. At night they slept in an empty adjacent ward.

Ward 81: Voices, an expanded edition of the original 1979 book, includes previously unpublished photographs, excerpts from interviews with patients and recorded conversations between Mark and Jacobs, as well as new essays examining the influence of their project. Ward 81 has always been considered one of the best examples of Mark’s ability to portray subjects living on the edges of society with compassion. The inclusion of the women’s voices gives invaluable insight, not only into the lives of the patients, but also into Mark and Jacobs’ experiences and the challenges they faced during their collaboration.

Exhibition: The Image Centre, Toronto, January 25–April 1, 2023

Mary Ellen Mark and Karen Folger Jacobs
Edited by Martin Bell, Julia Bezgin and Meredith Lue
Published by Steidl
288 pages, 141 images
Hardback / Clothbound
30.5 x 30.5 cm
ISBN 978-3-96999-013-1
1. Edition 01/2023

Images: Courtesy of Steidl Publishers