Mara Catalán was born in Madrid. One of seven siblings, she is the great grand-daughter of Ramon Menendez Pidal, one of Spain’s leading humanists, and daughter of Diego Catalán, disciple of Menendez Pidal and a respected medievalist.
Mara’s earliest memories are of traveling with her father to remote Spanish villages in search of popular ballads and songs that were later transcribed for his studies on the Spanish Romancero. Her interest in photography was born on these journeys as she learnt about the world through the people she met with her father and their traditions and customs.
After studying history and geography at the University Complutense of Madrid, Mara worked as a photography studio assistant to Javier Vallonhrat. She moved to New York in 1990 and apprenticed as a dark room technician with Gar Lillard at Lab One while working as a photographer while pursuing her personal projects.
In 1995 Mara moved to Chiapas in Mexico where she found work as archivist, restorer and printer in the photography archives of the Na-Bolom Museum in San Cristobal de Las Casas. The two years she spent in Chiapas coincided with the Zapatista Uprising. Mara made many trips into the Lancandon jungle to photograph the Zapatistas in their daily life and in their struggle. The result was an exhibition that was shown in New York, England and Spain.
In 1997 Mara moved back to New York and began to work as a fine printer for Magnum photos. In 2000 she set up her own B&W lab in Williamsburg, Lab2 and began to print for photographers on a freelance bases. In 2007 she expanded her lab to include Studio 304.
For the past 3 years Mara has been a teacher assistant at the ICP Community Partnership program with the HSFI and collaborating with Al-Liqundoi workshops abroad. Mara also continuos to expand her outreach working as a documentary photographer, photographing for the Rainforest Foundation and traveling to differenet countries to pursue her own personal projects.
Today she lives in Williamsburg, NY, with her three children Luna, Kidon and Arlo. She continues to work as a photographer, publishing in magazines and books and showing her work internationally.