|from "Family Pictures," 1984-1991, by Sally Mann|
I find Sally Mann's photographs to be extraordinarily, heart-breakingly beautiful. I just read this long, thought-provoking article by her in the NY Times Magazine, called "Sally Mann's Exposure." In it, she discusses her images of her (often nude) children running around in the privacy of their isolated, rural, safe family home. She addresses making her photos, and she also touches on their reception and her criticism (that these photos are inappropriate, or somehow exploited her children).
In both Mann's writing and images, I see such vulnerability. I firmly disagree with critics who find the children's nudity problematic or sexual. These are photos of play, imagination, magic, and being immersed in a safe childhood. She also photographs her husband, and there seems to be such trust between the two of them--it's lovely.
I found this point of hers very intriguing:
"To be able to take my pictures, I have to look, all the time, at the people and places I care about. And I must do so with both ardor and cool appraisal, with the passions of eye and heart, but in that ardent heart there must also be a splinter of ice."All artists and writers have to do this, in a way.
Further along in the article, Mann raises the point that her images did allow her children to be looked at by many people, and described a terrifying stalker who sent letters to her home and kids. She looks back on her work, and states, "With love, rapture and perhaps some measure of foolishness, I made pictures I thought I could control, pictures created within the prelapsarian protection of the farm, those cliffs, the impassable road, the embracing river."
|from "Southern Landscapes," 1998, by Sally Mann|
The issue of control of our images and art is an important one. Can we ever control its presentation or reception? I don't think so. But all of us who draw from our lives while creating (so, that's all of us!) have to confront this concept in some way.
Hope you enjoy the article--I'm interested in hearing your thoughts.