Prof K Pelka : Monday 6:00 - 9:20

Photo Essay – Sally Mann by Olivia VanBuskirk

Sally Mann was born on May 1st, 1951 in Lexington, Virginia. Mann was introduced to photography by her father, Robert S. Munger, at the age of sixteen. She attended The Putney School then continued her education at Bennington College and Friends World College, ultimately earning her BA and MA in creative writing from Hollins College in 1975. Despite having no training in photography, Mann began working as a photographer at Washington and Lee University after graduating from Hollins College. Soon after beginning her work as a photographer, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC published a collection of photos Mann took of the construction of Washington and Lee University’s new law building, Lewis Hall. Mann then began releasing books featuring her photography which include Second Sight, At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women, Immediate Family, and many more, the latest being released in 2018. Over the course of her career, Mann has earned a number of awards, an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree, and has been inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame.

I chose to learn more and look further into the works of Sally Mann because I found her journey to her career very interesting and the work she has honed in on is different from a lot of photography I have seen. I admire how far she has come in photography despite never studying or training in photography. I think it is inspiring to excel in a craft without any training or degrees in that particular field behind it. Overall, I found Sally Mann to be an inspiration, especially for young, creative women and I found her work to have a dark and rich story behind them.

The photo I have chosen by Sally Mann is from her book Twelve: Portraits of Young Women. What I initially noticed about the photo was the house, porch furniture, and how small it is. I realized it is actually a shed designed to look like a house, these are common in the suburbs which gives context as to where this photograph was taken. Next thing my eyes were drawn to was the young girl standing in the doorway of the shed on one leg with her arm stretched upwards against the door. I then noticed the tall figure of a man in a suit standing behind the young girl with his arm stretched out in front of her, gripping her arm. When I noticed the man, I was taken by surprise and it made me study the image further. The girl does not have a particular emotion as she stares forward at the camera furrowing her brows. I believe Mann is showing us the control this mysterious and sinister man has on this young girl which is a common struggle women face and one I can relate to. It is conveying the power many men seek to have over women in many ways from domestic situations to the rights being stripped away from women to this day. The photo itself is compositionally stunning to me, the strong contrast of brightness and darkness is very present and the frame of the photo is tight around the frame of the shed. I also notice that the photo is taken at the same eye-level as the young girl which I believe was a deliberate choice so the viewer stares directly at her. I enjoy the work of Sally Mann thoroughly and I find this particular photo to be stunning.

1 Comment

  1. Ken Pelka

    good comments. The small house and symmetrical balance adds to the claustrophobic feel of the girls situation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *