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[b. 1951] American photographer
...photographs open doors into the past but they also allow a look into the future. - Sally Mann, Photography Speaks II : 76 Photographers on Their Art by Brooks Johnson (Editor), Chrysler Museum , ISBN: 0893816523 , Page: 134
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.....I struggle with enormous discrepancies: between the reality of motherhood and the image of it, between my love for my home and the need to travel, between the varied and seductive paths of the heart. The lessons of impermanance, the occasional despair and the muse, so tenuously moored, all visit their needs upon me and I dig deeply for the spiritual utilities that restore me: my love for the place, for the one man left, for my children and friends and the great green pulse of spring. - Sally Mann - Still Time catalogue Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center, 1988

Like all photographers, I depend on serendipity... I pray for what might be referred to as the angel of chance. - Sally Mann

Every image is in some way a “portrait,” not in the way that it would reproduce the traits of a person, but in that it pulls and draws (this is the semantic and etymological sense of the word), in that it extracts something, an intimacy, a force. - Sally Mann

I’m so worried that I’m going to perfect [my] technique someday. I have to say it’s unfortunate how many of my pictures do depend upon some technical error. - Sally Mann

I keep trying to take better pictures. My approach is one of squinty-eyed doggedness. It would seem mechanical except for those ecstatic moments of luck that occasionally befall me. I am convinced that this persistence has played a far greater part in the making of my work than any special talent. - Sally Mann

We are spinning a story of what it is to grow up. It’s a complicated story and sometimes we try to take on the grand themes: anger, love, death, sensuality and beauty. Without fear and without shame. - Sally Mann

I think my best pictures come when I push myself and tell myself: That’s not good enough; I could do better…. You have to be overcome your fear of the picture and take it. - Sally Mann

I photograph my children growing up in the same town I did. Many of my pictures are intimate, some are fictions and some are fantastic but most are of ordinary things every mother has seen; a wet bed, bloody nose, candy cigarettes. They dress up, they pout and posture, they paint their bodies, they dive like otters in the dark river. - Sally Mann

When we made these pictures, the kids knew exactly what to do to make an image work: how to look, how to project degrees of intensity or defiance or plaintive, woebegone, Dorothea Lange dejection. I didn’t pry these pictures from them—they gave them to me. - Sally Mann

The camera was ever-present. It was always set up. And the children knew that if there was some drama or if there was something alluring or engaging or interesting about what they were doing, a picture was likely to be made. - Sally Mann

What is the truth in photography? It can be told in a hundred different ways. Every thirtieth of a second when the shutter snaps, it’s capturing a different piece of information. - Sally Mann

I’m so worried that I’m going to perfect [my] technique someday. I have to say its unfortunate how many of my pictures do depend upon some technical error. - Sally Mann

When I remember my childhood, I remember pictures of my childhood; I don’t remember actual moments. Photographs are really subversive in that way. If those are the only memories we have, and we know that photography lies—or at least is very limited in its presentation of information—then what does that make your childhood? One big lie? - Sally Mann

Seldom, but memorably, there are times when my vision, even my hand, seems guided by, well, let’s say a muse. - Sally Mann

I make bad picture after bad picture week after week until the relief comes: the good new picture offers benediction. - Sally Mann

I have found tangible evidence that within this life’s sweet tedium reside certain truths: that nothing attains maximum beauty until touched with decay, that the vulgar and miraculous can be one. - Sally Mann

When I started doing the family pictures, there was originally a documentary impulse. It wasn’t even conscious. Something would happen and I would reach for a camera, because of the power of what was taking place. As I continued the project, that impulse expanded—I was interested in a lot more than just the black eye or the stitches in the emergency room. I was after the whole, all-encompassing concept of childhood, including the halcyon moments at the farm, the quotidian aspects of childhood as well as the more dramatic ones. - Sally Mann

There’s a kind of reverence that goes along with doing this process. You have to pay your dues to the photo gods. - Sally Mann

I believe that photographs actually rob us of our memory. - Sally Mann

Here is my theory of photography: I think pictures actually create memories. - Sally Mann

The fact is that these are not my children; they are figures on silvery paper slivered out of time. They represent my children at a fraction of a second on one particular afternoon with infinite variables of light, expression, posture, muscle tension, mood, wind and shade. These are not my children at all; these are children in a photograph. - Sally Mann

To be able to take my pictures, I have to look, all the time, at the people and places I care about. And I must do so with both ardor and cool appraisal, with the passions of eye and heart, but in that ardent heart there must also be a splinter of ice. - Sally Mann

I don’t have a memory of [my father]; I have a memory of a photograph. - Sally Mann

Working in the inexhaustible natural pageant before me, I came to wonder if the artist who commands the landscape might in fact hold the keys to the secrets of the human heart: place, personal history, and metaphor. - Sally Mann

Good photographs are gifts… Taken for granted they don’t come. I set the camera up and… suspend myself in that familiar space about a foot above the ground where good photographs come. - Sally Mann

If I could be said to have any kind of aesthetic, it’s sort of a magpie aesthetic—I just go and pick up whatever is around. If you think about it, the children were there, so I took pictures of my children. It’s not that I’m interested in children that much or photographing them—it’s just that they were there... . - Sally Mann

Each good picture always holds despair within it, for it raises the ante for the ones that follow. - Sally Mann

Sometimes, when I get a good picture, it feels like I have taken another nervous step into increasingly rarified air. Each good-news picture, no matter how hard-earned, allows me only a crumbling foothold on this steepening climb—an ascent whose milestones are fear and doubt. - Sally Mann

Because I just like making beautiful pictures, sometimes I wander away from making a clear statement. - Sally Mann

... if it doesn’t have ambiguity, don’t bother to take it. I love that, that aspect of photography—the mendacity of photography—it’s got to have some kind of peculiarity in it or it’s not interesting to me. - Sally Mann

Photograph what is important to you, what is closest to you, photograph the great events of your life, and let your photography live with your reality. - Sally Mann

Exploitation lies at the root of every great portrait, and all of us know it. Even the simplest picture of another person is ethically complex. - Sally Mann

Sometimes I think the only memories I have are those that I’ve created around photographs of me as a child. Maybe I’m creating my own life. I distrust any memories I do have. They may be fictions, too. - Sally Mann

If transgression is at the very heart of photographic portraiture, then the ideal outcome—beauty, communion, honesty, empathy—mitigates the offense. - Sally Mann

The act of looking appraisingly at a man, studying his body and asking to photograph him, is a brazen venture for a woman; for a male photographer, these acts are commonplace, even expected. - Sally Mann

The hardest part is setting the camera on the tripod, or making the decision to bring the camera out of the car, or just raising the camera to your face, believing, by those actions, that whatever you find before you, whatever you find there, is going to be good. - Sally Mann

Stop trying to get it right. Just take the picture. - Sally Mann

When the good pictures come, we hope they tell truths, but truths “told slant,” just as Emily Dickinson commanded. - Sally Mann

Photography would seem to preserve our past and make it invulnerable to the distortions of repeated memorial superimpositions, but I think that is a fallacy: photographs supplant and corrupt the past, all the while creating their own memories. - Sally Mann

As ephemeral as our footprints were in the sand along the river, so also were those moments of childhood caught in the photographs. And so will be our family itself, our marriage, the children who enriched it and the love that has carried us through so much. All this will be gone. What we hope will remain are these pictures, telling our brief story. - Sally Mann

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