From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Sally Mann is an American photographer, best know for her large black and white photographs, first of her young children, then of landscapes suggesting decay and death.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Lexington, Virginia, Mann was the third of three children and the only daughter. Her father, Robert S. Munger, was a general practitioner, and her mother, Elizabeth Evans Munger, ran the bookstore at Washington and Lee University in Lexington. Mann graduated from The Putney School in 1969, and attended Bennington College and Friends World College. She earned a B.A., summa cum laude, from Hollins College (now Hollins University) in 1974 and a M.F.A. in creative writing in 1975. [1] She took up photography at Putney, where, she claims, her motive was to be alone in the darkroom with her, then, boyfriend.[2] She made her photographic debut at Putney, with an image of a nude classmate. Her interest in photography was promoted by her father. His 5x7 camera became the basis of her use of large format cameras today.

Early career[edit]

After graduation, Mann worked as a staff photographer at Washington and Lee University. In the mid 1970’s she photographed the construction of their new Lewis Law Library, leading to her first one-woman exhibition in late 1977 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. [3] Those surrealistic images were subsequently included as part of her first book, Second Sight, published in 1984.

Her second collection, At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women, published in 1988, stimulated controversy. The images “captured the confusing emotions and developing identities of adolescent girls [and the] expressive printing style lent a dramatic and brooding mood to all of her images.” [4]

Mann is perhaps best known [5] for Immediate Family, her third collection, published in 1992. The NY Times said, “Probably no photographer in history has enjoyed such a burst of success in the art world.” [2] The book consists of 65 black and white photographs of her three children, all under the age of 10, frequently posing nude or with implied sexual overtones or of damage. The controversy was intense, including accusations of child pornography (both here[6] and abroad [7]) and of contrived fiction with constructed tableaux. [2] One image of her 4 year old daughter (Virginia at 4) was censored by the Wall Street Journal with black bars over her eyes, nipples and vagina [sic]. [8] Mann herself considered these photographs to be “natural through the eyes of a mother, since she has seen her children in every state: happy, sad, playful, sick, bloodied, angry and even naked.” [9] Critics agreed, saying her “vision in large measure [is] accurate, and a welcome corrective to familiar notions of youth as a time of unalloyed sweetness and innocence,” [10] and that the book “created a place that looked like Eden, then cast upon it the subdued and shifting light of nostalgia, sexuality and death." [11] When Time magazine named her “America’s Best Photographer” in 2001, they said:

“Mann recorded a combination of spontaneous and carefully arranged moments of childhood repose and revealingly—sometimes unnervingly—imaginative play. What the outraged critics of her child nudes failed to grant was the patent devotion involved throughout the project and the delighted complicity of her son and daughters in so many of the solemn or playful events. No other collection of family photographs is remotely like it, in both its naked candor and the fervor of its maternal curiosity and care.” [12]

The New Republic considered it "one of the great photograph books of our time." [13]

Her fourth book, Still Time, published in 1994, was based on the catalogue of a traveling exhibition that included more than 20 years of her photography. The 60 images included more photographs of her children, but also earlier landscapes with color and abstract photographs.

Later career[edit]

In the mid 1990’s, Mann began photographing landscapes on wet plate collodion 8x10 glass negatives [see below], and again used the same 100-year old 8 x 10 bellows view camera that she had used for all the previous bodies of work. These landscapes were first seen in Still Time, and later featured in two shows presented by the Edwynn Houk Gallery in NYC: Sally Mann – Mother Land: Recent Landscapes of Georgia and Virginia in 1997, and then in Deep South: Landscapes of Louisiana and Mississippi in 1999. Many of these large ( 40"x50") black-and-white and manipulated prints were taken using the 19th century “wet plate” process, or collodion, in which glass plates are coated with collodion, dipped in silver nitrate, and exposed while still wet. This gave the photographs what the NY Times called “a swirling, ethereal image with a center of preternatural clarity," [14] and showed many flaws and artifacts, some from the process and some introduced by Mann.

Mann’s fifth book, What Remains, published in 2003, is based on the show of the same name at the Corcoran Museum in Washington, DC and is in five parts. The first section contains photographs of the remains of Eva, her greyhound, after decomposition. The second part has the photographs of dead and decomposing bodies at a federal Forensic Anthropology Facility (known as the ‘body farm’). The third part details the site on her property where an armed escaped convict was killed. The fourth part is a study of the grounds of Antietam (the site of the bloodiest single day battle in American history during the Civil War. The last part is a study of close-ups of the faces of her children. Thus, this study of mortality, decay and death ends with hope and love.[15]

Mann’s sixth book, Deep South, published in 2005, with 65 black and white images, includes landscapes taken from 1992- to 2004 using both conventional 8x10 film and wet plate collodion. These photographs have been described as “haunted landscapes of the south, battlefields, decaying mansion, kudzu shrouded landscapes and the site where Emmett Till was murdered." [16] Newsweek picked it as their book choice for the holiday season, saying that Mann “walks right up to every Southern stereotype in the book and subtly demolishes each in its turn by creating indelibly disturbing images that hover somewhere between document and dream."[16]

Her current projects include a series of self-portraits, a study of the effects of muscular dystrophy on her husband, portraits of intimate family life over the past 30 years, and a multipart study of the legacy of slavery in Virginia.[17].

Personal life[edit]

Mann has three children: Emmett (who was not named after photographer Emmet Gowin) born in 1979, Jessie (herself an artist, photographer and model) [18] born in 1981 , and Virginia born in 1985. Mann lives on a farm in Virginia with her husband, Larry. He is a full time attorney, and has muscular dystrophy, with progressive weakness. Mann is passionate about endurance horse racing. [17] Mann is currently represented by the Gagosian Gallery of New York City.


Her works are included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, [19] the Corcoran Gallery of Art, [20] the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, [21] the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, [22] the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, [23]and the Whitney Museum of New York City among many others.

Time magazine named Mann "America's Best Photographer" in 2001. [12] Photos she took have appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine twice: first, a picture of her three children for the September 27, 1992 issue with a feature article on her "disturbing work," [2] and again on September 9. 2001, with a self-portrait (which also included her two daughters) for a theme issue on "Women looking at Women."

Mann has been the subject of two film documentaries. The first, Blood Ties, [24] was directed by Steve Cantor, debuted at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, and was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary Short. The second, What Remains [25] was also directed by Steve Cantor. It premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Emmy for Best Documentary in 2008. In her New York Times review of the film, Ginia Bellafante wrote "It is one of the most exquisitely intimate portraits not only of an artist’s process, but also of a marriage and a life, to appear on television in recent memory."[26]

Mann received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree [27] from the Corcoran Museum in May 2006.



Exhibit catalogues[edit]

  • The Lewis Law Portfolio, at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1997
  • Sweet Silent Thought, at the North Carolina Center for Creative Photography, Durham, NC, 1987
  • Still Time, at the Allegheny Highland Arts and Crafts Center, Clifton Forge, VA, 1988
  • Mother Land, at the Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York City, NY, 1997
  • Sally Mann, at the Gagosian Gallery, New York City, NY, 2006
  • Sally Mann: Deep South/Battlefields, at the Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden, 2007


  • The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Hospice: A Photographic Inquiry. Bullfinch Press, Washington, DC, 1996. ISBN 978-0821222607
  • Nature Conservancy, In Response to Place: Photographs from The Nature Conservancy's Last Great Places. Bullfinch Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0821227411
  • Ferdinand Protzman, Landscape: Photographs of time and Place. National Geographic, 2003. ISBN 978-0792261667
  • R. H. Cravens, Photography Past/Forward: Aperture at 50. Aperture Press, 2005. ISBN 978-1931788373
  • Aperture journals
    • Issue 143 Spring 1996 (Everything That Lives, Eats) ISBN 978-0893816865
    • Issue 168 Fall 2002 (50th Anniversary Part 1) ISBN 089819999
    • Issue 194 Spring 2009 Untitled.


  1. ^ PBS PBS art:21 - Art in the 21st Century
  2. ^ a b c d Richard B. Woodward, “The Disturbing Photography of Sally Mann.” ‘’The New York Times Magazine’’ cover story, September 27, 1992, page 29. [1]
  3. ^ Archives / Corcoran Gallery of Art
  4. ^ Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL [2]
  5. ^ Corcoran Museum, Washington DC 2004 Exhibition. [3]
  6. ^ “Photo Book Challenged as Indecent”, ‘’The Post-Tribune’’ (Merrillville IN), December 18, 1997.
  7. ^ "Police confiscate art exhibit as child pornography" Helsingin Sandomat, Helsinki, Sweden [4]
  8. ^ ’’The Wall Street Journal’’, February 6, 1991. “Critique: Censoring Virginia,” By Ray Sokolov, p A10.
  9. ^ [5]
  10. ^ Charles Hagen, “Review/Art; Childhood Without Sweetness.” The New York Times, June 5, 1992. [6]
  11. ^ Lyle Rexer, “Art/Architecture; Marriage Under Glass: Intimate Exposures”, ‘’The New York Times, November 10, 2000. [7]
  12. ^ a b Reynolds Price, ‘’Time Magazine’’ July 9, 2001. [8]
  13. ^ Luc Sante, Luc Sante on Photography: The Nude and the Naked. The New Republic, May 1, 1995, p 30.
  14. ^ Lyle Rexer, ‘’Art/Architecture: Marriage Under Glass: Intimate Exposures’’, NY Times November 19, 2000. [9]
  15. ^ Malcolm Jones, “Love, Death, Light” ‘’Newsweek’’, September 8, 2003 [10]
  16. ^ a b Malcolm Jones, “Look Books”, ‘’Newsweek’’, November 25, 2005 [11]
  17. ^ a b Laura Parsons, “The lyrical lens: Sally Mann’s poetry in stillness.” ‘’The Hook’’, May 10, 2207, Charlottesville, Va.[12]
  18. ^ Jessie Mann's Web Site.[13]
  19. ^ Sally Mann at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  20. ^ Sally Mann at the Corcoran Gallery of Art
  21. ^ Sally Mann at the Hirshhorn Museum
  22. ^ Sally Mann at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
  23. ^ Sally Mann at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  24. ^ Steven Cantor (Director) (1994). Blood Ties (Motion picture). 
  25. ^ Steven Cantor (Director) (2005). What Remains (Motion picture). 
  26. ^ Ginia Bellafante,What Remains: The Life and Works of Sally Mann," The New York Times, January 31, 2007. [14]
  27. ^ Jay DeForge, "Corcoran College Awards Sally Mannn Honorary Doctorate. PopoPhotot, May 2006.[15]

External links[edit]

Category:1951 births Category:American photographers Category:Bennington College alumni Category:Guggenheim Fellows Category:Hollins University alumni Category:Living people Category:Nudity Category:People from Lexington, Virginia Category:Portrait photographers Category:Women photographers