Sally Mann

1 January 2017

Sally Mann photographs the things that she is closest to. “The things that are close to you are the things you can photograph the best, unless you photograph what you love, you’re not going to make good art”. What Remains: The life and work of Sally Mann, Part 1? [Uploaded by Aivdd on Jan 21. 2011]. youtube. com/watch? v=XNEd93H4pPY. Most of her work revolves around her husband, her children, her childhood upbringing and the landscape that is her home. Mann uses an 8×10 bellows camera, and in the mid-1990s she began using the wet plate collodion process to produce photographs.

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Some of her photographs contain blemishes, stains and imperfections but she accepts these and believes they are what make the photo. “If it doesn’t have ambiguity, don’t bother to take it. I mean I love that, that aspect of photography, it got to have some peculiarity in it or it’s not interesting to me”. SEGMENT: Sally Mann in “Place”. [Release date: 7/14/2011]. pbs. org/art21/artists/sally-mann/videos Mann was passionate about horses and in 2006, her horse had an aneurysm while she was riding him, Mann was thrown to the ground and the impact broke her back.

She made a series of ambrotype self-portraits during the two years it took for her to recover. These self-portraits were displayed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as a part of Sally Mann: the Flesh and the Spirit for the first time in November 2010. In the 1970’s Mann explored many different genres such as landscapes and architecture. She merged still life with portraiture. Mann has produced two series of landscapes: Deep South and Mother Land. In her series What Remains it shows pictures of the decomposing body of her greyhound, to the site where an armed fugitive committed suicide on her property in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

She has experimented with color photography, but seems too remained most interested in black and white. Deep South, 1998 Deep South, 2001 Sally Mann came to the world’s attention with ‘Immediate Family,’ a series of photographs with her children all under the age of ten at the time. These photos show every day activities such as playing, sleeping and eating but it also touches on larger themes such as death and social opinions of sexuality. One day her daughter Jessie came home with a knat bite on her face and it was swollen and bruised.

Sally said she was so striking so she put her in front of a wall and documented it (Damaged Child). It was then that Sally Mann realized beautiful photographs were right under her nose and she began photographing her children. These photographs of her children were published as a book and became an international best seller. The book contains around sixty images of her children. Sales of her prints skyrocketed and Time Magazine named Mann “Americas Best Photographer”. Thinking about the attitudes people had towards visual culture at the time when Immediate Family was produced, the effect it had on the public was very controversial.

To her, they were little more than tender, maternal photographs of her children but there was outrage within the religious community against child pornography and she was called an irrespirable mother. The controversy had the inarguably beneficial fact of bringing the work to the public’s attention. A lot more people saw the work as a consequence. The reaction of the religious community and others who disagreed with her work says more about the adult viewer than of the child subject. Sally Mann explored the concept of childhood and “growing” up through a maternal eye. Popsicle Drips, 1985. The Last Time Emmett Modeled Nude, 1987.

The image entitled “Popsicle Drips” shows a young, male torso, with liquid dripping down his lower abdomen. His right hip is tilted to the side, and his arms out of view. When you initially look at the image, it is quite disturbing because of the liquid substance dripping down the boy’s abdomen. Without the explanatory title, the substance could be anything. On first inspection it appeared to me to be dirt, which in my opinion would make more sense. Why would Popsicle drips be on the boy’s naked body in the first place? This naked picture is the only photograph in the entire body of work that shows full frontal male nudity.

The viewer may feel uncomfortable looking at the image as it is highly provocative in its subject’s pose, and the added Popsicle drips add an element of physicality. Because the artist is a woman and the subject is a male, for some people this caused an issue as it became more sexual. Emmet, the only male of the three children, is seen much less provocatively in the series than the girls are. The photograph ‘Sunday Funnies’, 1991, shows Jessie and Virginia lying naked in a bed really the comics in a newspaper, but Emmett appears with shorts.

While the girls are busy acting out a role Mann has conducted, he stares at the camera, almost offended in the way he is being depicted. Even in the almost sadly titled “The Last Time Emmet Modeled Nude” photograph, the water is obscuring our view of any intimate parts as we only see him from the waist up. This image, above all, shows the modesty and uncertainty that Emmet felt about his modeling. Jessie Mann did an interview with Aperture magazine and here she tells us how Emmet is dealing with the pressure the photographs from his youth has put on him. Emmet is completely daunted by it. He doesn’t know what he wants, so he backs away from the whole thing” (Jessie Mann). Dirty Jessie, 1985, Sally Mann He is very sick, 1986, Sally Mann Another visibly sensual/sexual image is “Dirty Jessie”. We see Jessie lying feebly on the grass. Her legs spread and her hands placed over her nipples. Her only clothing is panties and boots. The boots are almost completely off, and the positioning of her legs looks unnatural and appear broken. The image has been shot from above, objectifying her.

Even the name of the photograph suggests something sexual; “Dirty Jessie,” yet this young child has an innocence that only youth can possess. This photo becomes quite sexual because of the positioning of the camera above her, and the semi-modest placing of her hands covering an intimate feminine place. To describe what childhood really is, Mann utilizes truth in a few of her images. However staged this reality may be, there are some embarrassing and cringe worthy things that happen when you are growing up such as bed-wetting, chickenpox and bloody noses, so Mann documents these also. When the good pictures come, we hope they tell truths “told slant”. MANN, S. / REYNOLDS PRICE. 1992. Immediate Family. Phaidon Press Limited. An image that tends to stand out from the rest in terms of reality, is the appropriately named “He is Very sick”. In this photo it shows Jessie and Emmet sitting in a hospital room, on a bed where a man I presume to be their grandfather lies. The old man reaches his hand towards the camera, clasping the rails of the bed. Jessie looks directly into the camera was a traumatic look in her eye while Emmet looks to have a feigned sadness than a genuine sadness.

His arms are crossed defiantly, and he pulls his head away from the camera. The old man in bed is shrouded by light, making his face barely visible. These are private and personal moments that most families endure, and they are the ones that no camera-happy relative would want to capture on film. They are tragic and denied, and I can almost hear the mother’s words attempting to explain what is happening to grandpa to her young children. “He is Very Sick”. Emmet does not seem to understand why he is being photographed, and he is presumably trying to hide his sadness.

Jessie seems to be too young to understand that these are very private moments, and that they are not generally photographed. This image brings Mann’s work back into the realm of reality, and makes it familiar for viewers. Damaged child, 1984, Sally Mann Hayhook, 1989, Sally Mann “Damaged Child” is another reality based image, in which Jessie appears with a very swollen right eye. Her hair is cropped short, and her androgynous face is determined only by the frilly dress that she wears.

Her face is the only thing in focus in the image, and it appears to be jutting out towards the viewer. She wears no smile in the image, and she looks sad and helpless. While other mothers are busy bragging about their child making the soccer team or winning a beauty pageant, Sally Mann is busy showing the less flattering side of motherhood. She is showing the maternal need to tend to her wounded child, and is not concerned about the beauty of it. This is real life and she is not afraid to show it. In my opinion, taking hotographs of her children is her way of showing her love for them, through capturing their lives on film. Jessie says “She has a hard time letting us know how much she loves us. But I’ve also realized that each one of those photographs was her way of capturing, if not in a hug or a kiss or a comment, how much she cared about us”. Capturing the relationship of motherhood and childhood on film reveals a strange look into what a child is, and how they need a mother continually, yet still want to figure out their identity on their own so they push her away.

Mann’s father was a moralist and an atheist. Mann states in her book ‘Immediate Family’, ‘As a family, we were simply different. My two brothers and I were the only children in our school required by our parents to sit in the hallways during Bible study”.

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