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?"
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!
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.