It is difficult to identify Lillie, dressed in baggy clothes and dragging on a cigarette butt, as a thirteen-year-old girl; only the rag doll cradled in her arm belies her age. Mary Ellen Mark's inclusion of the doll implies lost innocence--especially juxtaposed against a graffiti wall with the word "dope," a reference to drugs, clearly visible.
This photograph is part of a photo essay entitled Streetwise. In 1983 Life magazine sent Mark to Seattle to document the phenomenon of adolescents who left family and home in favor of life on the street. Sleeping in abandoned buildings and scavenging for food in dumpsters, these street children survived by begging, stealing, and hustling; the girls often turned to prostitution. Mark's photo essay resulted in the 1988 book, Streetwise. The project also relates to a film of the same title, on which she collaborated with her husband, Martin Bell.