A big thanks to Australian photographer Hilary Wardhaugh for offering her own personal reflection on Sally Mann’s intimate practice and her family relationships. You can see Hilary’s website here or follow her on twitter here.
(The video Hilary refers to in this reflection can be seen at the bottom of the post)
“I have always loved her art and more so since being a mum.
I’m not photographic art critic and my words here are from the heart, only.
In a way I am torn about how I felt watching the film and Sally Mann’s unwavering vision, her dedication and the fact that she is seemingly consumed by photography. I would love the ability to be that focussed and am envious that she has a husband and family that are so supportive of her ‘work’ even though her work or art has always involved them.
I feel for the children, too. When I am consumed with my photography I would love to follow that train of thought or action to completion but I cannot because of family demands. Im not saying that Mann’s actions are selfish but I feel that she is fortunate to have the unerring support of her family. I’m guessing that her work supports them very well and so they appreciate that if she may be at times emotionally unavailable when working they appreciate that what she does pays the bills.
I don’t think that her being so consumed doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love her kids. She is an artist and to work efficiently she needs to be in the right head space to work, though at times it is a the expense of family time. I met Trente Parke in 2003 and he was at that time very similar, saying that almost his every thought was of photography and he is an amazingly talented and successful photographer, too. In think it goes with the territory.
I did note that her son spoke about ‘Sally Mann’ not ‘mum’, but what to make of that I cannot answer.
Some people may see as what she has done as exploitative but I don’t. As a mum to a young boy I am fortunate of our close relationship that he allows me in and doesn’t mind being the object of my focus. To me their lives growing up being part of their mother’s vision was amazing. They were willing participants and I love the fact that many of the images they appear naked. Some of their portraits are so direct and raw, something only maybe possible if it’s your mother photographing you.
However, I feel it’s always good to question any portrait and look deeper. Some of the childrens’ looks in their portraits could be deemed as affected. Or was it that they had got to the point after numerous ‘takes’ that they were actually past that point where they were fully consenting. Who knows?
Mann’s images, art and consuming passion for photography make her an icon of our time and we need to thank her family for that, too.”