In 1975, The Pennsylvania Gazette asked Mary Ellen Mark to make a photo-reportage on the filming of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which director Milos Forman was then shooting entirely on location at the Oregon State Hospital. That’s where the photographer came in touch with the women of Ward 81, a maximum-security unit created within the hospital in order to house women who were deemed dangerous to themselves or to the community.
In February 1976 one year before the ward was definitely closed Mary Ellen Mark, together with writer and psychiatrist Karen Folger Jacobs, spent a whole month in the facility to document the patients’ daily lives. Thirty years after the publication of the volume, which gathered their work, Ward 81 a reportage of deep human as well as documentary impact is being reissued by Damiani.
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