Saturday, 15 December 2012

Artist: Sally Mann

I have been doing some reading online and looking at other peoples work, mostly just browsing, reminding myself of who's who and looking for work I like.

Sally Mann's work came to my attention. I have heard her name before but not investigated her work, so I found her website and discovered some beautiful, moving images of children (I assume hers). I am interested in capturing my own family life in a non-conventional way (that is avoiding the typical snap shots as much as possible, just capturing the moment). Sally's work does this. The children are serious, quiet and still. The poses are obviously natural and not contrived. They are quite timeless in their beauty. (Family Pictures series)
Sally Mann, taken from for personal study purposes

Sally Mann, taken from for personal study purposes

They are all black and white, probably taken with a medium format camera, though I'm not totally sure of this - but the shallow DOF and film-like nature suggests this to me. Her work is arranged in series - and dated (e.g. 1978 - 1980). She is interested in form (often bodily) and pattern and beauty. While I personally find 'typical' portrait photography quite challenging, I am also interested in the detail, and the subtle nature of Mann's photography appeals to me. The contrast of skin against fabric against stone - which also suits the monochrome aesthetic  She intersperses high key shots amongst darker, heavily vignetted images with great effect. Many images show only one body part. They feel very natural, although a little otherworldly (contrasting with my 'normality' of two small children and the chaos around them - there is none of that in these images!). They make me want to pull out my medium format again!

I also saw an interesting article on the Guardian Photography Blog (2012) about an exhibition in London that compares Henri Cartier-Bresson with recent colour photographers - i.e. looking at whether colour images can be as successful as CB's wonderful monochrome images. CB apparently didn't think much of colour in photography, rejecting it as 'indigestible'! I guess this is somewhat akin to discussions over the last decade comparing film and digital - really they are almost separate art forms, as are monochrome and colour. I think this is partly why I've had such difficulty with this Assignment, as I mostly shoot in colour, compose in colour and 'think' in colour. Monochrome really is a different beast. I'm not sure it's really all that relevant, though I'm sure the exhibition would be a pleasure to walk around. And I'm sure that many (if not all) the modern colour photographers are strongly influenced by CB's work, so it's not really a fair comparison to make! Perhaps the valid question to make is - could CB have been as successful if he worked in colour. I think the answer is - probably. He was a master in many ways, and had he been handed a modern Leica M9 I'm sure he would have taken amazing colour images and incorporated it into how he worked, if he wanted to. The mediums are simply different, have different properties, and resultant feelings/emotions related to them. It's not really a comparison. But I'd love to go to the exhibition!


At Somerset House, (2012). At Somerset House Website [Online], Available at: [Accessed 16/12/12]

Mann, S, (2010). Sally Mann Website  [Online], Available at: [Accessed 14/12/12]

O'Hagan, S, (2012). Sean O'Hagan On Photography [Online], Available at [Accessed 16/12/12]

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