Born in Lexington, Virginia USA, Mann was Introduced to the medium of photography by her father, a physician.
Sally then took up photography whilst at the Putney school in Vermont and then later, studying at Bennington College with photographer Norman Sieff. After a year spent in Europe, Sally graduated from Hollins University in 1974. A year later she earned a masters degree in writing.
Mann talks romantically about the mysterious light in the South in comparison to the North where everything is revealed. ‘In the Summer, the quality of air and the light are so layered, complex and mysterious’. – American SuburbX Jan 5th/2013.
Late afternoon is when Sally talks about capturing the light that makes her photographs so dreamy and atmospheric.
Having experimented with colour, Mann is always drawn back to her love of black and white, creating ‘vintage’ style images that she achieves with a 100yr old 8×10 large format bellows camera, using her own hand as a shutter mechanism and favouring defective lens that are scratched or marked to further authenticate the style of which she is known. A technique that Mann has embraced is that of the‘collodion process’ used in the development of photographic practise in the 19th century.
In an interview with art21.org, Mann explains how the collodion and ether are applied to the glass plate followed by silver nitrate, then inserted into the camera back whilst still wet, leaving only around 3 minutes to expose the image before the chemicals evaporate. This is the process that creates the ‘swirling’ effect to her pictures, sharp in the centre and a soft vignette around the outside. Any added imperfections such as scratches, dust or light-leaks are welcomed, adding to the sense of history and time that Mann is fascinated by.
Mann is well known for her intimate documentary style shots of her family and has published books ‘At Twelve’ (1998) and ‘Immediate Family’ (1992) capturing everyday moments of her children playing and growing up. Beautiful, serene and evocative, Manns images are never obvious and leave viewers wondering about the narrative and inviting them to question (maybe not intentionally) the image, sometimes leading to misinterpretation and controversy.
‘Time, memory, loss and love are my main artistic concerns’ –Sally Mann/Guardian Sean O’Hagan, June 20th 2010.
In the late 1990s Mann turned to Landscape photography, never wanting or needing to leave the South for her art, Sally found an easy transition from photographing her family with the Southern landscape as the backdrop to documenting the landscape as the main focus. Interested in the history of the Southern country, Mann created images with a strong sense of emotion and nostalgia in her series ‘Deep South’ (2005) a series of ethereal landscapes. Mann speaks of not being a spiritual person but feeling the lands presence whilst spending long periods of time alone creating the series.
Guardian/Sean O’Hagan interview June 20th,2010
Americansuburbx Jan 5th/2013
The Art of Photography- Ted Forbes