Saturday, November 26th, 2011
One of my favourite photographers is Sally Mann, the American best known for the controversial body of work produced around her children. The people who criticise that work probably should be aware that a good part of what somebody takes from a photograph is the baggage they bring to the viewing. But that aside, her life’s work has been far broader than many people realise.
In Deep South she explores the unique Southern American light and produced a body of work that I find impressive. The wet plate collodian process, the large format camera and the great consideration required to shoot and process these beautiful photographs should be respected. This is no simple adventure with a handheld – or dare I say digital – machine gun. Deep South is a primary work of an eminent contemporary American photographer.
Sally Mann’s images from Deep South can be seen on Youtube but the book provides high quality 8 x 10 inch prints that are really required to do the photography justice. It’s only when you can hold and touch this quality of image that you can fully appreciate its intrinsic qualities and values.
This is a book I wish lived on my bookshelf because a number of particular favourites jump off the pages. The first of the Georgia series, on page 9, is of a misty dark scene where some form of ivy covers a massive tree. The first in the Virginia series, on page 27, of a dimly lit landscape is even more compelling with its predominant blackness surrounding the diffused sun. Also, page 31, a river with a leafy branch in the top right quadrant and the misty Georgian shoreline on page 41.
However, my three favourite photographs are all from the Deep South series. On page 61 the tree and rock landscape, on page 71 a stick in a sliver of sunlight on a perfectly calm river and my ultimate favourite from the series is on page 83 of a standing tree trunk with a slash mark. For those reasons I have a feeling this book might eventually find a cousin living on my bookshelf.
If you’re really interested in understanding the photographer, you can watch the documentary What Remains: the life and work of Sally Mann.