Sunday, August 23, 2015
Sally Mann's Hold Still.
As a photographer, I want to know what motivates people to shoot, and what influenced them in their careers. A third aspect comes to the fore here as well, and that is her love of the Virginia countryside, especially the mountains, where she grew up. It's the land and the light that moves her. and I get exactly what she's saying. Yes, she does describe some of her work as a photographer, as well as the fallout about her photography that used her children as subjects. It's very interesting, and thought-provoking.
The fourth aspect of the book that stands out, is the dichotomy and interlacing of black and white cultures in the South. Sally contrasts the beauty of the South, and the ugly truth of apartheid that has permeated the history there. Sally writes, after finding a nondescript burial in the fields of Mississippi: "Out in the middle of nowhere, I contemplated this paradoxical scene so emblematic of the plucky, undiminished South, a no-frills monument to the intractability of the overworked soil and the practical, impoverished, generous people who have long tried to wring a living from it."
This is a complex book, focusing on her family history, her personal history, finding photography, living as an artist, finding love, finding beauty, and some timeless truths about love, art, redemption, and the continuum of life. If Sally Mann had never taken a photograph, we would have been poorer for it, but she's equally skilled as a storyteller, and Hold Still will have a hold on you.
Hold Still. A Memoir With Photographs by Sally Mann. 2015. Little, Brown and Company. 482 pp. ISBN 978-0-316-24776-4.
I should add, after all this, that Sally Mann came to Ann Arbor in 2012 and spoke as part of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design's lecture series. She was fantastic, and some of the content in Hold Still was part of her lecture.