The piece below was written by Keavy-Handley Byrne in our Photographs and Photobooks Department.
Mann grew up in rural Virginia, with an influential father who, as an amateur photographer himself, instilled in her a desire to make important, provocative art. From the outset, Mann saw herself as an
iconoclast. She proposed to her husband, Larry, at Bennington College,
which they both attended. They married in 1970, when Mann was nineteen,
and, after she had finished her undergraduate studies, the couple
returned to her childhood home of Rockbridge County, Virginia, and had
their first child, Emmett, in 1979.
Lot 341: Sally Mann, Candy Cigarette, silver print, 1989. Estimate $100,000 to $150,000.
pursued both photography and writing, completing her masters degree in
creative writing in 1975, but also working as the photographer for
nearby Washington & Lee University. Her personal work focused on
subjects ranging from the historic architecture in her hometown of
Lexington, to carefully casual portraits for a monograph titled At
Twelve, of girls on the cusp of puberty. Her first solo exhibition,
comprised of surrealistic images of the construction of the law building
at Washington & Lee, was held at the Corcoran Gallery in
Washington, D.C., in late 1977.
began photographing her family in 1984, against her favored backdrop:
the mythic, lyrical landscape of the American South. Her children,
Emmett, Jessie, and Virginia, were all under the age of ten. After what
she describes as a very free childhood, she endeavored to raise her
children in the same way, unencumbered by more traditional ideas how
children should engage in play together. Mann recalls somewhat wryly in
her memoir, Hold Still, that her own mother had a difficult time getting
her to wear a stitch of clothing until she was of school age, and her
children were nude much of the time, as well.
Lot 342: Sally Mann, The Way I Found the Baby, silver print, 1987. Estimate $6,000 to $9,000.
children have been described as 'collaborators' by Richard B. Woodward,
in his 1992 profile on Mann in the New York Times Magazine; her older
daughter, Jessie, describes pointing out settings or scenes that the
children recognize as attractive to Mann. Factual documentary and
contrived fiction were woven together seamlessly, much like children
creating fairytale woods from thin clumps of trees, by the collaboration
between the children and their mother.
one of the most recognizable photographs of the 20th Century, Mann's
Candy Cigarette continues to be the subject of critical and academic
celebration and scrutiny, more than two decades after it was first
exhibited as part of Mann's Immediate Family exhibition at Edwynn Houk
Gallery in 1990.
writes: "For years, Sally Mann labored in rural obscurity, worried that
her kinds of photographs would never find favor in the art world.
Against the hard-edged documentarians of the 70's and the media-haunted
generation of the 80's, her lush, brooding scenarios looked out of
place. Her last solo show in New York was at the now defunct Marcuse
Pfeiffer Gallery, in 1988."
In Candy Cigarette [above],Mann's
middle child, Jessie, holds perfectly still, with an expression that
vacillates between defiant and demure. As much as she is caught in the
unflinching gaze of the camera, so is the viewer trapped in her
practiced, coy stare. The haziness of the surrounding activity, enhanced
by Mann's skillful, lush printing practice, lends itself to the feeling
of a childhood memory, where the sharpest details lie in a simple
glance or a gesture. Jessie's pristine white dress is starkly contrasted
with the deep, dark tones of the background; the vignetting and short
field of focus in Mann's images recall the large-format photography of
years prior, without becoming, as Woodward says, "another cool
complexities of adolescence, of self-expression, and of innocence are
laid bare in Mann's photograph. The subject appears comfortable, at ease
with her surroundings, while also engaging in the performance of
adulthood -- "vamping," as Mann describes it in her recent memoir --
discovering her own identity through play-acting.
Lot 343: Sally Mann, a photo flipbook to commemorate the birth of her son, Emmett Munger Mann, 1979. Estimate $200 to $300.
More information on the works in this sale can be found here, or check out the complete catalogue.
Labels: Candy Cigarette, Sally Mann