Sally Mann and I

I was introduced the work of Sally Mann from a presentation given by a fellow classmate. I particularly took interest in her series ‘Immediate Family’ and I thought it was relevant to the new family I have created.

Between
1984
and
1994,
she 
worked 
on 
the 
series,
 Immediate Family
(Aperture,
1992), 
which
 focuses 
on 
her 
three 
children,
 who 
were 
then 
all 
aged 
under 
twelve.
While
 the
 series
 touches
 on
 ordinary 
moments
 in
 their
 daily
 lives
–
 playing, 
sleeping,
 and
 eating
–
it
 also 
speaks 
to 
larger 
themes 
such 
as 
death
 and 
cultural 
perceptions 
of 
sexuality.

Sally Mann, 1984-1991

This quotation from her online biography, revised in 2011, suggests that this is a representation of her daily family life. There are 14 images in the series that Mann has published on her website: this to me is 14 images of a seven-year period that suggests that this is what she wants Internet viewers to see. I’m not suggesting that this is not an accurate representation of the truth, but it is limited and curated for effect. This image in particular struck me as interesting; although the whole series, to someone who grew up in a typical middle class village, was quite shocking in the sense that the children are all nude; yet, this photograph for me was one of the most ‘sexually controversial’

When I saw the photograph of the little girl, wet from what can be assumed to be swimming, with her hair wrapped round her back, it reminded me of two things: one of the St. Tropez adverts with the slick hair and water; but also of mermaids. Mermaids are mystical creatures, like sirens, that would call in their prey to cause danger. The look in the child’s eyes from Mann’s photograph is one that draws in the viewer as she looks straight into the camera and thus in to the viewers’ eyes. It could be argued that the nudity in the set of images is somewhat a distraction to what Sally Mann was trying to document in the same way that a mermaid would distract; nevertheless from what I read into the image, I did not simply see a young girl going for a dip.

Regardless, I thought this was appropriate for my project because I have been taking photographs of my flat mates on their phones, computers and Xboxes. I realise that the message I am giving across to the viewer is that we live in a world of mass communication, where young people’s lives do revolve around technology. However, in my final set of images, I wanted to also highlight that there is more than the phones: the way my flatmates present themselves to the world is of similar importance to that of Sally Mann. Nudity was normal to her, but not to my culture: nudity plays with sexual connotations.

I decided to read Sally Mann’s ‘Immediate Family’: in it, she describes her own childhood as far fetch: her father would sculpt obscene carvings such as a penis and added baubles at Christmas. I took a photograph of the examples in the book. I noticed that although a book is related to a narrative; Mann does not present her story in a linear narrative with the dates jumping between the 1980s and 1990s. Why is this? Mann suggests that she was “spinning a story go what it is to grow up” therefore it could be said that she is trying to mimic the unpredictability of a child’s life and play. Mann also says that:

“These are photographs of my children living their lives here too. Many of the pictures are intimate, some are fiction and some are fantastic, but most are of ordinary things every mother has seen”

It seems that we, as a flat, are very much in harmony with society, as far as what I see as society. We have established our roles as a family and we commit to mass communication. I have not seen anything that is not in conflict and if I had, it would be documented.

Images of my negatives will be uploaded shortly and of my recent 35mm colour film documents.

 

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