Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sally Mann visits Ann Arbor

Sally Mann lectured in Ann Arbor this afternoon, as part of the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series, sponsored by the UM School of Art & Design. This was a much anticipated event for me and a bunch of my fellow photographers. Sally Mann, an accomplished photographer that is probably most famous for her long series of portraits of her kids growing up on their Virginia farm -- spoke to a huge, packed house at the Michigan Theater this afternoon. If you are not familiar with her body of work, visit her web site for more information. I really didn't know what to expect. Photographers that present lectures are often content to let the images speak, and usually have some sort of backstory to tell about the images, the process, or the thought that went into making them. Sally's lecture was journey into her past, growing up in Virginia, and her relationship with the black woman that worked for her family as a maid and caregiver. It was a thoughtful essay on how she basically grow up in a culture that was totally incurious about the blacks in day to day affairs, how slavery and segregation has formed the South (and of course, the North as well)and how she has worked in her own way, to repay the debt to her nanny/family maid. There was a lot to think about from her lecture, and the images she did show us were primarily of her family's maid, and then the wet-plate images she has been making of black men at her studio. She was quite eloquent about her feelings of doing portraits, and how hard it is to come away with images that she is really proud of. Inside the Michigan Theater

I know that good artists work on their craft every day -- that's how they become great. We don't get to see the poor results from artists -- just the finished works that they are happy to finally show. Since Sally is working with collodion, it's a much more pain-staking process, with many variables to consider. Sally's description of her feelings about working on her portrait work made me mull that around in my head long after her lecture.

This was a very memorable lecture - thought provoking, introspective, and educational. I think that if some us came out feeling a little humbled, then that is a good thing.


1 comment:

Leslie Lazenby Hunsberger said...

Your very last sentence said exactly what I was thinking as I listened to the lecture. "I am humbled."