Sally Mann

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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 in 1974 and a MA in creative writing in 1975.

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After graduation, Mann worked as a photographer at Washington and Lee University. In the mid 1970s she photographed the construction of their new Law School building, the Lewis Hall, leading to her first one-woman exhibition in late 1977 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. 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.”

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Mann is perhaps best known for Immediate Family, her third collection, published in 1992. Many of the pictures were taken at the family's remote summer cabin along the river, where the children played and swam in the nude. Many explore typical childhood themes (skinny dipping, reading the funnies, dressing up, vamping, napping, playing board games) but others touch on darker themes such as insecurity, loneliness, injury, sexuality and death. The controversy on its release was intense, including accusations of child pornography (both in America and abroad) and of contrived fiction with constructed tableaux.

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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.

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In the mid 1990s, Mann began photographing landscapes on wet plate collodion 8x10 glass negatives 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.

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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.

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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."

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Mann's seventh book, Proud Flesh, published in 2009, is a study taken over six years of the effects of muscular dystrophy on her husband Larry Mann. The project was displayed in Gagosian Gallery in October 2009.

Mann's eighth book, The Flesh and The Spirit, published in 2010, was released in conjunction with a comprehensive show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia. Though not a retrospective, this 200 page book includes new and recent work (unpublished self-portraits, landscapes, images of her husband, her children's faces, and of the dead at a forensic institute) as well as early works (unpublished color photographs of her children in the 1990s, color Polaroids and platinum prints from the 1970s).

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Mann has three children: Emmett, born in 1979, who for a time joined the Peace Corps, Jessie (herself an artist, photographer and model), born in 1981, and Virginia (now in law school), 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.

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Updated13.11.2015 - 23:54