The Family and the Land

Sally Mann

18 June - 19 September 2010

The work of American photographer Sally Mann is deeply rooted in both her family, and the landscape she lives and works in. This exhibition, her first solo-show in the UK, draws on several powerful photographic series from throughout her long career that reflect these influences.

Sally Mann (b.1951, USA) first came to prominence for Immediate Family (1984 – 94), a series of intimate and revealing portraits of her three young children Emmett, Jessie and Virginia. Taken over ten years, Mann depicts them playing and acting to camera in and around their homestead in Virginia. Capturing their childhood in all its rawness and innocence, both this and the later series Faces were born out of a collaborative process between mother and child.

Changing focus to the landscape close to her home, the series Deep South (1996 – 98) draws on significant locations from the American Civil War. The photographs are ghostly lit and covered with delicate marks and drip trails – a result of using antique cameras and processes which Mann relishes – that imbue them with a sense of time suspended.

The most recent series in the exhibition, What Remains (2000-04), brings together both of the earlier strands. Facing us are beautifully realised portraits of decomposing bodies returning to the land, photographs taken at a research facility in Tennesse. Dealing directly with the social taboo of death, Mann treats this subject with sensitivity, encouraging us to reflect on our own mortality and place within nature’s order.

The Family and the Land: Sally Mann at The Photographers’ Gallery is an edited version of a touring exhibition, conceived by Sally Mann in collaboration with Hasse Persson, Director, BorĂ¥s Museum of Modern Art, Sweden.

The above was taken from the Photographers Gallery.

I have never liked The Photographers Gallery, especially not now in there silly new building. But it has to be said that I regard this particular show to be the best thing I have seen there. I am not sure if this says a lot about the PG as this is a touring show and so not curated by them. However, the rooms are dark and the show well laid out, so there's hope yet..
I am a big fan of Mann's early work Immediate Family and to see the prints in the flesh again is a treat as they are exquisite. I also love the Deep South work and her reasoning for using that yucky wet plate negative technique which really adds a rich feel to the images. As for the What Remains and Faces. Not so keen on these, but quite remarkable none the less. All in all its a terrific show and always of wonderment to me what people can produce with very little outside influence. There is also the bonus of an 80 minute long film about Mann and for a moment I thought I was in the Tate Modern.
May be The Photographers Gallery are finally coming up trumps... Shame the Print Rooms still a travesty though.

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