Intimate, controversial, thorough, Sally Mann stands out among late 20th century American photographers. Her rare and remarkable work earned her Time magazine’s recognition as Photographer of the Year 2001. Born in Lexington, Virginia, in 1951, the South is the background of her life, the background of her pictures, and even the subject of an eerie, haunting book published in 2005 under the title Deep South. Sally Mann never left Lexington.
Her photography is an exploration of the most familiar, the closest, the deepest. In 1992, she published her seminal work, Immediate Family, documenting seven years of her children’s life. The zealous polemic fueled by America’s prude overshadowed the intense quality of Mann’s photographs. Immediate Family was a work only a mother could have achieved, and it is difficult to tell whether the debate grew so heated because of the (obviously unfounded) allegations of child pornography, or because of the unspoken truths the pictures told about childhood: its innocence, its sensuality, its graveness, its loneliness, its fear and its ache.
But Sally Mann is not easily impressed. She continued her exploration of the closest and the deepest, material and metaphysical. Deep South includes many pictures of Civil War battlefields in which the soul of the dead seem to linger beyond the collodion stains. Mann’s preoccupation with mortality and decay is perceptible throughout her work and it became her prime matter in What Remains. At the same time, Mann was working with her husband Larry Mann on a series of nude pictures of his body as it was being transformed by muscular dystrophy. The series was published in 2006 under the title Proud Flesh. Ever close, ever familiar, Mann is now preparing Marital Trust, a book comprised of profoundly intimate photos of her and her husband.
Although Sally Mann has spent her entire artistic career exploiting old cameras and techniques dating back to the 19th century, she does have a website. A photography website by a photographer. Straightforward, minimal and inviting, it features her personal and professional information and a selection of her works to be browsed by theme. The press packet – in PDF format – contains many valuable articles.