Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sally Mann (update 3)


This Sally Mann documentary is excellent.

Sally seems to me to be just the consumate artist. She is a highly successful fine arts photographer, and for the right reason: she is fantastic. Surely one of the greatest living arts photographers. And she does not have compromise in her body: one gets the feeling that if she'd never sold a single picture, she would still be doing the same thing. Also, she has integrated her art with her life and her family to an enviable degree, her husband and her children are frequent and willing subjects for her, and talks about her with nothing but love and respect. If I couldn't have my own life, I'd want hers.

... I find it amusing that nothing helped Sally's career as much as the kiddie-p*rn accusations from the likes of Pat Robertson, in the nineties. I can just imagine these fundamentalist a-holes sit there and observe: "well, that's not what we intended... hell, next time it'll be different. What's the next artist to attack?"

Joe said:
Reading about her on Wikipedia, some of her stuff sounds a bit grotesque.

Probably you're thinking about the death series, art photos including human corpses in various stages of decay (from an amazing research facility where they leave corpses out in the free to study them as time passes). Yes, it's a challenge, but I think art should not shy away from anything.
Funny though, at the end of the first documentary, which was made near the end of her childrens photos project, she said: "I hope my next project will be something easy, like fruit in a bowl, because this has just been so tough." I thought "yeah, sure, like it's in you to do something easy". And lo and behold.
(Typical of her: she named her boy after a black boy who was brutally murdered in 1955.)
--
Funny anecdote: in the newer docu, we see her photographing the faces of her now-grown children, with a 3-minute exposure time. And hers is done, Virginia says: "I'm sorry, I blinked." And Sally says: "that's all right, at three minutes it doesn't show." Virginia: "What, you never told me that."
She's been photographed by her mother since birth, often at long exposures, and she thought all the time that she couldn't blink!

update 18.3:
Tommy said:
I just finished the DVD, "What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann". Wow it certainly does put her photography and life into perspective. I almost felt sad in the end though and wonder what has happened to her husband. I did enjoy it very much though.
Her camera certainly puts a new meaning on the term point-and-shoot!! More like point and wait. I found it very interesting that she's using that technology today. If I wanted to check out how it works, what terms would I do a search on? It looks like she products a negative on a piece of glass and not being a true photographer, I don't know the terms.

I don't know much either, but she is using, for most of that work an old "wet plate" technique which is highly tricky. It's 150 years old, and it was big progress when they invented dry plates so you no longer had to bring your darkroom with you. It's typical Sally to do it the hardest way.
Example: we saw her shoot the face of (adult) daughter Jesse (4-minute exposure), and come back from the darkroom proudly showing a beautiful picture (funny enough a positive, I'm not sure why). Typically it had some error-artifacts on it, like ripples all over the face, and it was great. Then she went to do the rest of the fixing process, and when she came back she said that when she did the final wash, the whole of the emulsion and with it the picture had washed off the plate! It was gone.

19 comments:

eolake said...

The DVD includes the excellent documentary "Blood Ties", about the making of Sally's book "Immediate Family", from 1993.

http://tr.im/hs37
230MB, 30 minutes.

I invite you to put it on the file sharing networks and promote it.

tc said...

Eolake said...
"...230MB, 30 minutes."

And...17.5 HOURS download time for you, Pascal! Why you could sleep a full 8-hour night; go to work for 8 hours and...hopefully...if all went well, you could view it when you got home that night, Dude! ;-)

Thanks, Eo! :-)

Tommy said...

Eolake, the video you pointed us to, is that the same as the DVD you referenced (documentary)? I just ordered it and will cancel if it is.

Hopefully it won't take 17.5 hours to get it. Nope, it 1/2 way there already in about 2 minutes..

Hurray for FIOS.

eolake said...

No, this video is one of the extra features on the DVD. The main feature is newer and bigger.

Tommy said...

I just finished watching the video and I thank you for sharing this with us. It was really great.

It's really sad that in our society this is such a taboo. I mean we all have bodies no matter what age we are and I just don't understand why there should be this distinction because of age.

I visited a nudist camp for about 20 years or so and have lots of pictures of my son and other children as they grew up. Today I'm almost afraid of mentioning that I own such things. Our society would most likely call these child porn and have the police come and take me away.

When will we grow up?

Thanks, again.

eolake said...

I agree. This is one of the great blots on a society which fancies itself rational.

Anonymous said...

Reading about her on Wikipedia, some of her stuff sounds a bit grotesque.

Tommy said...

"Funny anecdote: in the newer docu, we see her photographing the faces of her now-grown children"

Eolake, any idea where we might see this? Is it on-line somewhere?

eolake said...

I only know of the DVD (top link). I recommend it.

Tommy said...

I just finished the DVD, "What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann". Wow it certainly does put her photography and life into perspective. I almost felt sad in the end though and wonder what has happened to her husband. I did enjoy it very much though.

Her camera certainly puts a new meaning on the term point-and-shoot!! More like point and wait. I found it very interesting that she's using that technology today. If I wanted to check out how it works, what terms would I do a search on? It looks like she products a negative on a piece of glass and not being a true photographer, I don't know the terms.

eolake said...

(See updated post.)

http://tr.im/hwvx

Anonymous said...

Probably you're thinking about the death series, art photos including human corpses in various stages of decay (from an amazing research facility where they leave corpses out in the free to study them as time passes). Yes, it's a challenge, but I think art should not shy away from anything.

I doubt her greyhound's decaying remains were anything to do with that research facility.

I'd like to know what the point of photographing that is anyway. It's trying to be shocking for the sake of being shocking, and that never holds up very well.

Justify that as art.

Just for the record it doesn't shock me in the slightest. It doesn't repulse me. But there is no insight into anything at all to be gained there.

eolake said...

Probably you're further in your death-acceptance than most people.

I feel certain that Sally never does anything to shock.
She just does "meditations" (as she called it once) over things that interest her.
The same things need not interest everybody.

neutralday said...

Too postcard-ish.

Kidding of course, Mann is an amazing artist, thanks so much for the link.

eolake said...

To my mind, the most powerful of her books is Immediate Family. I dunno, maybe her love for her kids translated into great power in handling tones and lines. And light. Awesome light in that one.

Neutralday said...

You're right, the work in that book works on so many levels. It's intensely personal, emotionally powerful and exquisitely well done on a technical level.

And yes great light.

eolake said...

Yes, it's the excellence of her technique in that book which puzzles me, because elsewhere and in documentaries, she seems so bungling and uncaring about technique.

But perhaps she is "carefully careless". I did see her applying Dodge and Burn in the darkroom, so she is clearly no dummy.

Anonymous said...

The same things need not interest everybody.

Fair enough. I probably wouldn't even care except it seems strange to photograph the decaying remains of one of your own pets. Animals you have no emotional connection to, fine. But your own pet?

eolake said...

I got the impression that that was actually what started the whole thing. She found a claw saved from an old pet, and she was amazed at the emotional impact that had on her, so she started exploring it.