Sally Mann


American Photographer

Author Quotes

Maintaining the dignity of my subjects has grown to be, over the years, an imperative in my work, both in the taking of the pictures and in their presentation.

The postmortem readjustment is one that many of us have had to make when our parents die. The parental door against which we have spent a lifetime pushing finally gives way, and we lurch forward, unprepared and disbelieving, into the rest of our lives.

To be able to take my pictures, I have to look, all the time, at the people and places I care about. And I must do so with both ardor and cool appraisal, with the passions of eye and heart, but in that ardent heart there must also be a splinter of ice.

You lost the remembrance of pain through inflicting it.

At the age of 16, my father's father dropped dead of a heart attack. And I think it changed the course of his life, and he became fascinated with death. He then became a medical doctor and obviously fought death tooth and nail for his patients.

I couldn't deal with a normal life.

I smoked, I drank, I skipped classes, I snuck out, I took drugs, I stole quarts of ice cream for my dorm by breaking into the kitchen storerooms, I made out with my boyfriends in the library basement, I hitchhiked into town and down I-91, and when caught, I weaseled out of all of it . . . There is no need to switch on the fog machine of ambiguity around these facts: I was still a problem child.

If it doesn?t have ambiguity, don?t bother to take it. I love that, that aspect of photography?the mendacity of photography?it?s got to have some kind of peculiarity in it or it?s not interesting to me.

Matte digital prints are gorgeous, don't you agree? But the glossy digital prints, I just can't stand that paper.

The proverbial hospitality of the South may be selectively extended but it is not a myth.

To identify a person as a Southerner suggests not only that her history is inescapable and formative but that it is also impossibly present. Southerners live uneasily at the nexus between myth and reality, watching the mishmash amalgam of sorrow, humility, honor, graciousness, and renegade defiance play out against a backdrop of profligate physical beauty.

Before the invention of photography, significant moments in the flow of our lives would be like rocks placed in a stream: impediments that demonstrated but didn?t diminish the volume of the flow and around which accrued the debris of memory, rich in sight, smell, taste, and sound. No snapshot can do what the attractive mnemonic impediment can: when we outsource that work to the camera, our ability to remember is diminished and what memories we have are impoverished.

I don't know what the instinct is, to save every report card, every half-sentence scribbled note, but my mother did it pretty effectively, and I've done it to a fare-thee-well.

I struggle with enormous discrepancies: between the reality of motherhood and the image of it, between my love for my home and the need to travel, between the varied and seductive paths of the heart. The lessons of impermanence, the occasional despair and the muse, so tenuously moored, all visit their needs upon me and I dig deeply for the spiritual utilities that restore me: my love for the place, for the one man left, for my children and friends and the great green pulse of spring.

I'm not an ardent feminist - well, maybe I am an ardent feminist. I just roll my eyes at the way women are constantly used and how sensitive men are about photographs of themselves.

My main interest was finding boyfriends. I'd park myself in the bookstore and read with one eye on everyone coming in.

The Texas Republic, whose constitution expressed an overheated enthusiasm for America?s peculiar institution, had been created in 1836 in part as a way for slave-owners to keep their human property by effectively seceding from Mexico where slavery was illegal. These are well-known facts, except possibly in Texas,

Unless you photograph what you love, you're not going to make good art.

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American Photographer