Confronting the reality of a parent suffering with life-threatening medical issues and at times losing the will to live.
Mom. In English it’s such a simple palindrome. Yet it is packed with so much personal history instinctive emotion. Variations are also the first word most of us utter. That’s why it’s so painfully difficult to see our mother’s suffer whether you refer to her as maman, mutter, majka, mamma, mzazi, or ahm, etsi, haha, ina, or umma. I came face to face – literally – with my mother and her deteriorating condition when she collapsed face forward onto the dining table. The odds of me being there at that particular moment were infinitesimally small. I had just stopped by to say “hello” and for a quick dinner on a 24-hour layover between assignments in Japan and Oklahoma. I dragged my mother onto the floor, yelled to my wheelchair-bound father to call 911, then gave my mom mouth to mouth and chest compressions. In the background I soon heard my father frantically explaining to the emergency operator, “My wife has passed away.” Fortunately, that was not the case. CPR brought her back long enough for the paramedics to arrive and get her to the hospital. Her heart stopped once again in the ambulance but they were able to get her stabilized. A week later she came home with a pacemaker. Unfortunately, a horrendous case of edema in her legs soon swelled to the forefront of her medical issues. Unbeknownst to me until it was almost too late, the skin on both legs split and wounds bearing down on her tibia and fibula bones developed. By the time I got her to the hospital, she was millimeters away from loosing her left leg. I’m not sure why I decided to document this second family drama in as many years. I’ve used the camera to document the devastation of tsunamis in Japan and Thailand, earthquakes in Nepal and Los Angeles, displaced peoples in Iraq, geopolitical issues in North Korea and Iran, but never something so private. Yet in doing so I realized that there is something universal in the personal. It was heartbreaking to be with my mom when she would shove a pillow in her mouth to keep from screaming as she was having her wounds chemically debrided. For weeks she would ask the doctors or anyone else that would listen for a suicide pill. As her wounds began to heal so did her spirit. Smiles began to appear on a visage that I thought for a long time would not bear on again. Because of incredible medical care and in the end her will to live, after months in hospital and rehab rooms, mom came back home, wheelchair bound, but home.
After graduating from California State University, Los Angeles with a Master of Arts Degree in Pictorial/Documentary History, Mark started his professional photography career doing the stills for the Merv Griffin Show and various television and movie companies. When the show ended in 1986 he set off on a four-month trek across the Pacific and throughout Southeast Asia, China and Japan. The images created on that trip brought attention to his travel and documentary photography. He since has visited and photographed in eighty countries. His editorial work has appeared in publications including Life, GEO, Wallpaper, Stern, Conde Nast Traveler, Islands, TravelAge, Playboy, Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, W Magazine, The New York Times, The London Times, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, as well as many photography and airline in-flight magazines. His commercial clients range from The Gap for his fashion photography, Coca-Cola for portraiture, to cruise lines airlines and government tourist bureaus for his travel photography. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a CLIO Award and an Aurora Gold Award for his photographic work and an ACE Award for directing and producing a video for television. In the spring of 1998 Abbeville Press published Mark’s book “Faces of the Twentieth Century: Master Photographers and Their Work” recording in both words and pictures many of the great names in photography. In March of 1999, the book won the prestigious New York Book Show “Photography Book of the Year” and “Best of Show” awards. Mark’s book “The Way of the Japanese Bath” (R.A.M. Publications), winner of a Premier Print Award, was published in February 2003 to coincide with a touring exhibition beginning at APEX Fine Art in Los Angeles. His third book “Mark Edward Harris: Wanderlust” (R.A.M. Publications) was released in November 2004. Images in that book led Mark to being named “Photographer of the Year” at the 2004 Black + White Spider Awards and the book itself being named the people/photography book of the year at the 2005 International Photography Awards. “Domicilium Decoratus” (Harper/Collins), collaboration with award-winning interior designer Kelly Wearstler, was released in 2006. In 2007 Chronicle Books published his book “Inside North Korea.” A revised edition of Wanderlust was also published in the same year and was the recipient of the first place award for Fine Art Books at the “Prix del la Photographie Paris (PX3). In 2008 Chronicle Books published “Inside Iran.” In 2009 a revised and expanded edition of The Way of the Japanese Bath was released. In 2013 "North Korea" and "South Korea" where published.