Mary Ellen Mark is an internationally acclaimed photographer who has long been fascinated by the complex relationships between people and animals—as she puts it, "the anthropomorphic quality of animals, and the animalistic quality of man." This fascination has lured her again and again to Mexico and India, two countries that, despite their many differences, share "a primal force . . . that makes the relationship between man and beast even more obvious. There is a more fundamental and intimate working relationship between the people and animals, and this relationship is something I am drawn too and try to convey in many of my photographs."
Man and Beast presents an extended photo essay comprising images from Mexico and India that span some forty years. Many of the Indian images were taken while Mark was working on her classic book Indian Circus (1983), but most of the photographs have never been previously published. Infused with an unsentimental poignancy and a fully intentional anthropomorphism, Mark's photographs of animals, circus performers, children, and others are sometimes ironic, occasionally unsettling, but always remarkably engaging. Accompanying the images are a photographer's statement and a conversation between Mark and Melissa Harris, editor-in-chief of Aperture Foundation, covering Mark's lifelong passion for animals, her experiences photographing them in circuses with their trainers, and her efforts to portray the humanity of animals and the lurking beast within humans.