There are few real taboos left in America society. Over the years Hollywood has managed to turn prostitution, cannibalism, Satanic workship and even incest into popular entertainment. And yet, there are still things that make s deeply uncomfortable. One f them is childhood sexuality; another is recognition of the physical reality of death.
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The photographs in the "Last measure" series are of Civil War battlegrounds: landscapes that seem in Mann's depictions, to be haunted by the violent deaths there. Mann has been working on this quintessentially American subject for three years now; it forms one part of a larger project entitled "What remains", a vast series on the nature of mortality.
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Sally Mann’s rich and varied career as a photographer has seen her focus on architecture, landscape and still life, but she is known above all for her intimate portraits of her family, and in particular her young children. Her work has attracted controversy at times, but it has always been influential, and since her the time of her first solo exhibition, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., in 1977, she has attracted a wide audience.
Sally Mann explored various genres as she was maturing in the 1970s: she produced landscapes and architectural photography, and she blended still life with elements of portraiture. But she truly found her metier with her second publication, a study of girlhood entitled At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women (1988). And, between 1984 and 1991, she worked on what is undoubtedly her most famous series, Immediate Family (1992), which focuses on her three children, who were then all aged under ten. Whilst the series touches on ordinary moments in their daily lives – playing, sleeping, eating – it also speaks to larger themes such as sexuality and death.
Mann has always remained close to her roots, and she has photographed the American South for many years, producing two major series, Deep South (Bullfinch Press, 2005) and Mother Land. In What Remains (Bullfinch Press, 2003), she assembled a five-part study of mortality, one which ranges from pictures of the decomposing body of her beloved pet greyhound, to the site where an armed fugitive committed suicide on her property in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. She has often experimented with color photography, but she has remained most interested in photography’s antique technology. She has long used an 8x10 bellows camera, and has explored platinum and bromoil printing processes. In the mid 1990s she began using the wet collodion process to produce pictures which almost seem like hybrids of photography, painting, and sculpture.
Sally Mann lives and works in Lexington, Virginia. A Guggenheim fellow, and a three-times recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Mann was named “America’s Best Photographer” by Time magazine in 2001. She has been the subject of two documentaries: Blood Ties (1994), which was nominated for an Academy Award, and What Remains (2007). She has been the subject of major exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. Her photographs can be found in many public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.