The photographer Sally Mann describes her pictures as “silver poems of tone and undertow,” and they have always seemed designed to stop the passage of things that can barely be slowed: youth, memory, seasons, light, even decay. When she began her first attempt at a piece of sustained writing, “Hold Still,” her memoir published this week by Little Brown, she said she realized with great relief that she had followed the same impulse in her nonphotographic life, letting nary a scrap of paper escape her archival clutches.

“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,” she said, adding, “My poor kids.”

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