Sally Mann


American Photographer

Author Quotes

What is truth in photography? It can be told in a hundred different ways. Every thirtieth of a second when the shutter snaps, its capturing a different piece of information.

Death makes us sad, but it can also make us feel more alive.

I feel I'm a strange mixture of insecurity and strength. Most of us, probably most people. I'm transferring that same concept to the people I photograph.

I think my father came to believe long ago what Rhett Butler told Scarlett: reputation is something people with character can do without. Character and character.

Increasingly, the work I'm doing is in service to an idea rather than just to see what something looks like photographed. I'm trying to explore how I feel about something through photography.

Photographs open doors into the past, but they also allow a look into the future.

The two sensibilities, the visual and the verbal, have always been linked for me - in fact, while reading a particularly evocative passage, I will imagine what the photograph I'd take of that scene would look like, even with burning and dodging notes. Maybe everyone does this.

Whatever of my memories hadn?t crumbled into dust must surely by now have been altered by the passage of time. I tend to agree with the theory that if you want to keep a memory pristine, you must not call upon it too often, for each time it is revisited, you alter it irrevocably, remembering not the original impression left by experience but the last time you recalled it. With tiny differences creeping in at each cycle, the exercise of our memory does not bring us closer to the past but draws us farther away.

Don't get between me and a really good picture in the darkroom, because then I want to go straight to the darkroom and develop it. But once that's done, I'm fine.

I had learned over time to meekly accept whatever betrayals memory pulled over on me, allowing my mind to polish its own beautiful lie. In distorting the information it?s supposed to be keeping safe, the brain, to its credit, will often bow to some instinctive aesthetic wisdom, imparting to our life?s events a coherence, logic, and symbolic elegance that?s not present or not so obvious in the improbable, disheveled sloppiness of what we?ve actually been through.

I think the media is a fear-mongering operation. They love to rile their viewership up or to scare them.

It didn't help my career to be living in Appalachia.

Photographs supplant and corrupt the past, all the while creating their own memories.

The whole nature of photography has changed with the advent of a camera in everybody's hand.

When an animal, a rabbit, say, beds down in a protecting fencerow, the weight and warmth of his curled body leaves a mirroring mark upon the ground. The grasses often appear to have been woven into a birdlike nest, and perhaps were indeed caught and pulled around by the delicate claws as he turned in a circle before subsiding into rest. This soft bowl in the grasses, this body-formed evidence of hare, has a name, an obsolete but beautiful word: meuse. (Enticingly close to Muse, daughter of Memory, and source of inspiration.) Each of us leaves evidence on the earth that in various ways bears our form.

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.

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American Photographer