DSC_0703DSC_0707I don’t often read memoirs, but this one very obviously and quite literally jumped out at me when I was perusing a local bookstore in St. Louis recently. Sally Mann! My photography hero and life-long inspiration — here, her whole life so far, told in her beautiful flowing words in her new memoir, Hold Still

As a child, I distinctly remember her staying with us overnight and even back then, before Immediate Family came out, I was at once star struck and immediately put at ease by her strength and charisma. I remember nothing but a glimpse of her as she graciously accepted my older sister’s room for the night, and that was that. Darn fleeting childhood memory.

But years later, when I was old enough to notice and really appreciate art, I remember being completely floored and inspired by At Twelve and Immediate Family, photography that spoke to my soul and has since inspired the (very basic) photography of my own children. Sometimes the essence of people stays with you your whole life, and Sally Mann’s life work has touched so many in this way.

Her memoir does not disappoint. It is incredibly well-written, its pages filled with intelligent insights, family stories that run the gamut of emotions, photographs, her take on the controversies that made her a household name, and even notes from her children. She is unapologetic but also human, an open and refreshingly honest storyteller. DSC_0709DSC_0712A passage I particularly enjoyed was this, Mann’s take on the elusive “good picture” and the perception of the artist:

If Proust-like genius were the prerequisite for art, then statistically speaking very little of it would exist. Art is seldom the result of true genius; rather, it is the product of hard work and skills learned and tenaciously practiced by regular people. In my case, I practice my skills despite repeated failures and self-doubt so profound it can masquerade outwardly as conceit. It’s not heroic in any way. To the contrary, it’s plodding, obdurate effort. I make bad picture after bad picture week after week until the relief comes: the good new picture that offers benediction.

So inspiring! If you’re familiar with Mann’s work, I think you’d really enjoy her memoir. It’s a must-read.

Next up, I need to watch the documentary, What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann. See trailer below, and have a wonderful day, wherever you find inspiration.

5 thoughts on “Reading…”
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  1. hi lauren! long time reader here! I do really enjoy the pictures you take of your kids and i can totally appreciate how you are inspired by sally mann. I’ve read that really long new york times article about sally mann from the 90s, and I think the whole thing is very relevant to today’s world. Obviously I’m personally not a big fan of some of her pictures (not visually, of course, visually they’re beautiful). I feel very strongly about privacy and especially in this era of blogs and social media I definitely don’t think the internet is a place to post pictures of naked children. I get that art galleries are a different can of worms entirely, but so many similarities still. Not trying to spark a debate, I just have feels about this as I’m sure you do 🙂 anyway I’m sure this is an interesting read!

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I think we can all agree that the early 1990’s were a very different time, before everyone had internet access, while perhaps not a more innocent time, surely a time where these things were newly explored. Mann addresses the complexities of the nude photography of her children in the book and I found it all very interesting. Of course, I was raised in a household of artists, so I feel a bit differently about the debate!

  3. I picked this book up from the library at your recommendation and it is fascinating! Sally Mann’s writing and storytelling style have drawn me in and I am mesmerized by her life and art. I’m no artist and having an insight to her process has been so interesting. Thank you!!

  4. Pingback: Artsy | CrumbBums

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