Each time you take a good picture, you have the wonderful feeling of exhilaration... and almost instantly, the flip side. You have this terrible, terrible anxiety that you've just taken your last good picture.
I had written my master's thesis on Ezra Pound on 'The Cantos.' And don't ask me about it. I don't remember anything about it. Sally Mann Me, Remember, Thesis I guess I have a certain willingness for audacity.
I think truth is a layered phenomenon. There are many truths that accumulate and build up. I am trying to peel back and explore these rich layers of truth. All truths are difficult to reach.
It is easier for me to take ten good pictures in an airplane bathroom than in the gardens at Versailles.
Proust has his answer, and it?s the one I take most comfort in ? it ultimately resides in the loving and in the making and in the living of every present day.
The writer Lee Smith, who once had a New York copy editor query in the margin of her manuscript Double-wide what? tells a perfectly marvelous, spot-on story about Eudora Welty when she came to Hollins College, where Smith was a student. Welty read a short story in which one female character presents another with a marble cake. In the back of the audience Smith noted a group of leather-elbowed, goatee-sporting PhD candidates, all of whom were getting pretty excited. One started waving his hand as soon as she stopped reading and said, Miz Welty, how did you come up with that powerful symbol of the marble cake, with the feminine and masculine, the yin and the yang, the Freudian and the Jungian all mixed together like that? Smith reported that Welty looked at him from the lectern without saying anything for a while. Finally she replied mildly, Well, you see, it?s a recipe that?s been in my family for some time.
When I read something, I picture that scene in that detail. That becomes very similar to composing a photo in real life.
Eventually, my highbrow parents, who so hated the Eisenhower suburban culture of the 1950s that the only magazines they subscribed to were 'The Atlantic' and 'The New Yorker,' broke down and got 'Life' magazine.
I have a vivid, apocalyptic imagination.
I try and take the commonplace - and some of it is writ large, like death - take the commonplace and make it universally resonant, revelatory, and beautiful at the same time.
It's a touchy subject, but as a Southerner, you can't ignore our history any more than a Renaissance painter can ignore the Virgin Mary. And it's impossible to drive down a road or eat a vegetable or pass a church without being reminded of slavery.
Sally Mann Work, Dignity, Presentation I'd park myself in the bookstore and read with one eye on everyone coming in. I remember reading a Robert Bly book of poetry.
There are a number of things that set Southern artists apart from anyone else. Their obsession with place and their obsession with family.
When I read, I take notes and underline things. So reading is a vigorous process for me, but I read in bed. My poor husband is trying to go to sleep, and I'm reaching over him to get the Post-it notes.
Every image is in some way a ?portrait,? not in the way that it would reproduce the traits of a person, but in that it pulls and draws (this is the semantic and etymological sense of the word), in that it extracts something, an intimacy, a force.
I have had a fascination with death, I think, that might be considered genetic for a long time. My father had the same affliction, I guess.
I was just taking pictures to see what they looked like. Just for the fun of it. It wasn't about anything in some cases. Some of them were just about the joy of opening up an aperture and seeing what shows up.
It's always been my philosophy to try to make art out of the everyday and ordinary...it never occurred to me to leave home to make art.
Some of my pictures are poem-like in the sense that they are very condensed, haiku-like. There are others that, if they were poetry, would be more like Ezra Pound. There is a lot of information in most of my pictures, but not the kind of information you see in documentary photography. There is emotional information in my photographs.
There is a great quote from a female writer. She said, 'If you don't break out in a sweat of fear when you write, you are not writing well enough. I tend to agree. I think my best pictures come when I push myself.
When the good pictures come, we hope they tell truths, but truths 'told slant,' just as Emily Dickinson commanded.
Every time it?s the same. It?s easy to prove to myself that good pictures are elusive, but I can never quite believe they?re also inevitable. It would be a lot easier for me to believe they were if I also believed that they came as a result of my obvious talent, that I was extraordinary in some way. Artists go out of their way to reinforce the perception that good art is made by singular people, people with an exceptional gift. But I don?t believe I am that exceptional, so what is this that I?m making?
I have no animus toward digital, though I still pretty much take everything on a silver-based negative, either a wet plate or just regular silver 8x10. But I've started messing a little bit with scanning the negative and then reworking it just slightly.
I will confess that in the interest of narrative I secretly hoped I'd find a payload of southern gothic: deceit and scandal, alcoholism, domestic abuse, car crashes, bogeymen, clandestine affairs, dearly loved and disputed family land, abandonments, blow jobs, suicides, hidden addictions, the tragically early death of a beautiful bride, racial complications, vast sums of money made and lost, the return of a prodigal son, and maybe even bloody murder. If any of this stuff lay hidden in my family history, I had the distinct sense I'd find it in those twine-bound boxes in the attic. And I did: all of it and more.
It's not a lack of confidence, because I can't argue with the fact that I've taken some good pictures. But it's just a raw fear that you've taken the last one.