Sally Mann

Sally Mann is one of the most famous American photographers. She is best known for her black-and-white photographs from the childhood of her children, as well as landscapes and shots devoted to the theme of decay and death.

Sally Mann was born in 1951 in the city of Lexington, Virginia. She never left her homeland for a long time and since the 1970s worked only in the south of the USA creating unforgettable series of photographs in the genre of portraiture, landscape and still life. Sometimes her ambiguous photographs met harsh criticism, but one thing remained certain: this talented woman has asserted an invaluable influence over contemporary art. Since the very first solo exhibition at the Washington Gallery of Art in 1977, professionals in art have been keeping a close eye on the new genius.

"Memory is our main tool, an inexhaustible source. Photographs open the door to the past, but also provide a glimpse into the future. Therein lies the main paradox: we see beauty and at the same time the dark side of things. Wheat fields, sails filled with wind, but also ash. In Japanese, there is a special word for such a dual perception: 'mono no aware'. In a loose translation it means something like "beauty with a touch of sadness." How carefully and to the finest details shall we keep what we love knowing that we ourselves will depart this life at the appointed time."

Sally Mann began studying the art of photography at Vermont Academy. In many interviews, she claims that the only motivation for studying was the opportunity to stay in a dark room alone with her then boyfriend. Sally studied in Bennington for two years, there she met Larry, whom she proposed a marriage herself. After studying in Europe for a year, the future legendary photographer received a diploma in 1974, and after another three hundred days she expanded the growing list of her achievements with graduation from the magistracy - not in photography, however, but in literature. Until the age of thirty, Mann both was taking photographs and writing.

The American photographer found her true vocation after her second publication of photographs came out: a collection of images of life and mindset of young girls. The book was entitled as "At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women" and was published in 1988.

In 1984-1994 Sally was working on a "Close Relatives" series (1992), focused on portraits of her three children. Kids at that time were not yet ten years old. Although at first glance it seems that the series presents ordinary and routine moments of life (children are portrayed playing, sleeping or eating). But it turns out that each shot touches much larger topics such as death and cultural differences in understanding sexuality.
In "Proud Flesh" series (2009), Sally Mann directs the camera lens onto her husband Larry. This publication contains photographs taken over a six-year period, frank and sincere images capturing a man in moments of deeply personal vulnerability and taking a new look at the traditional concepts of the role of sexes.

Mann is also the author of two impressive series of landscapes: "Far in the South" (2005) and "Homeland". In "What Will Remain" (2003) album she analyses mortality. Series includes photos of the rotting corpse of her beloved dog, as well as pictures of a hideaway in her garden in Virginia, where an armed fugitive criminal wormed his way into the Mann family's parcel and committed suicide.
Sally also experimented with color photography, but the master's favorite technique is black and white photography, using such old-fashioned photography methods as platinum and bromo oil technics. In the mid-1990s, Sally Mann and other photographers with a penchant for creative experiments fell in love with the so-called wet collodion method - printing the pictures that acquire the features of painting and sculpture.

"In the fusion of the past and the future, reality and symbol, is where my family exists - Emmett, Jesse and Virginia. I am attracted by strength and confidence that can be seen on their faces; there is nothing more attractive than a random natural gift. They are real people, their life is full-fledged and complex. A passing perspective of the past and unpredictability of the future - these difficulties created by time sway on their faces just like the shadows of the leaves of a large oak. "
By 2001, Sally Mann had already won three prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, constantly was in the spotlight of the Guggenheim Foundation and was awarded the Time Magazine's "Best Photographer of America" title. Two documentaries were shot about her and her work: "Blood Ties" (1994) and "What Will Remain" (2007). Both of them became laureates of various cinematic awards, in 2008 "What will remain" was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Documentary. Her new book is entitled "Hold Still, a Memoir by Sally Mann" (2015). The critics reaction to the work of a recognized master was greatly approving, the New York Times officially included it on the bestseller list.
Today this incredible woman and popular photographer lives and works in her hometown of Lexington, Virginia, USA. From the day of publication to the present moment, her astonishing works serve as an invaluable source of inspiration for people of all artistic professions.
Author Anna Laza
Photographer's official website
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