Immediate Family (book)

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Immediate Family.jpg
AuthorSally Mann
Publication date
Preceded byAt Twelve: Portraits of Young Women 
Followed byStill Time 

Immediate Family is a 1992 photography book by Sally Mann. The book is published by Aperture and contains 65 duotone images. The book predominately features Mann's three children, Emmett, Jessie and Virginia, who also appear on the front cover. 13 of the pictures show nudity and three show minor injuries; Emmett with a nosebleed, Jessie with a cut and stitches, and Jessie with a swollen eye. Stills from the book were displayed at the Edwynn Houk Gallery in 1992 and again 15 years later in 2007.[1] Several images from the book were re-published in Mann's next book, Still Time.[2]


The images within the book were taken between 1984 and 1991 in rural Virginia, where the children, and Mann herself, spent their childhoods. Photographs were taken with an 8 x 10 view camera.[3] Mann originally decided not to publish the book until 10 years after the last photos had been taken, as her children would be older and more likely to understand the images. When Emmett and Jessie found out they protested, insisting that she publish it sooner. The children held the power to refuse any images being published. Virginia refused to let a photo of her urinating appear in the book and Emmet refused to allow a photo with him with his socks on his hands. Sally Mann commented her children seemed only concerned over being portrayed as "geeks" and showed no concern over nudity.[4]


By September 1992, 300 prints from the book had already been ordered, earning "well over a half-million dollars".[4]

The book was met with "great acclaim and discomfort".[5] Critical review varied from praising the book as "timeless and magic," to chastising it as "pornographic and exploitative."[1] Blake Morrison commented that Immediate Family made Mann famous for the wrong reasons; "because critics exaggerated the intimacy of the photos at the expense of their artfulness; and because the American religious right accused her of pornography when her camera was capturing beauty and transience."[6]

Out of the 65 photos in the book, only 13 show the children naked. There was no internet in those days. I'd never seen child pornography. It wasn't in people's consciousness. Showing my children's bodies didn't seem unusual to me. Exploitation was the farthest thing from my mind.

— Sally Mann responding to criticism of nude photographs of her children

In 1993 Steven Cantor directed the film Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann, which focused largely on Mann's fight defending herself from allegations from the Christian right that her work was child pornography.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Sally Mann Immediate Family". Edwynn Houk Gallery. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  2. ^ Wilson, Emma (2003). Cinema's Missing Children. Wallflower Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-1903364512. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  3. ^ Osbourne, Valerie (October 27, 2006). "Sally Mann's Immediate Family: The Unflinching and Unafraid Childhood". Yahoo! Voices. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Woodward, Richard (September 27, 1992). "The Disturbing Photography of Sally Mann". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  5. ^ Appleford, Steve (December 4, 2010). "The dangerous Sally Mann". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  6. ^ Morrison, Blake (May 29, 2010). "Sally Mann: The naked and the dead". The Guardian. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  7. ^ "Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann (1993)". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2013.

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