Sally Mann’s ‘Immediate Family’ and the Physical landscape

One of the things I love about photobooks is that they can stay on your shelf and change over time so much so, that two readings of the same book can cause completely different reactions.

Lately I have found myself drawn back to books that work with the physical, natural landscape, a few of my favourites at the moment being Paula McCartney’s ‘Bird Watching‘ and Bernard Fuchs’ ‘Roads and Paths‘.

©SALLY MANN 'Fallen Child, 1989'

And so perhaps it is no surprise that in picking up ‘Immediate Family’ again for this month, one of the themes that resonated unlike before was the physical landscape and serene beauty of this idyllic setting. As a town-dwelling citizen I see (naively) only the ideals of this rural setting, the simple pleasure of collecting yard eggs and resting by the water.

Mann’s images really bring home this idea of living alongside the landscape when we see Jessie’s wild hair tangled up and becoming part of the foliage she stands in front of. Or where Emmet stands tall in the black water, only creating the slightest of alteration to the flow. This Virgina idyll also puts me in mind of Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ from which I have lifted a few quotes alongside Mann’s images.

– Matt


“In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to society.

©SALLY MANN 'Yard Egss, 1991'

“As I sit at my window this summer afternoon, hawks are circling about my clearing; the tantivy of wild pigeons, flying by twos and threes athwart my view, or perching restless on the white-pine boughs behind my house, gives a voice to the air…

“Now that the cars are gone by and all the restless world with them, and the fishes in the pond no longer feel their rumbling, I am more alone than ever. For the rest of the afternoon, perhaps, my meditations are interrupted only by the faint rattle of a carriage or team along the distant highway.

©SALLY MANN 'The Alligator's Approach, 1988'

“While I enjoy the friendship of the seasons I trust that nothing can make life a burden to me. The gentle rain which waters my beans and keeps me in the house today is not drear and melancholy, but good for me too.

“On land only the grass and trees wave, but the water itself is rippled by the wind. I see where the breeze dashes accros it by the streaks or flakes of light. It is remarkable that we can look down on its surface. We shall, perhaps, look down thus on the surface of air at length, and mark where a still subtler spirit sweeps over it.

©SALLY MANN 'The Last Time Emmett Modeled Nude, 1987'


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