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 is known for her photographs of intimate and familiar subjects rendered both sublime and disquieting. Her projects explore the complexities of familial relationships, social realities, and the passage of time, capturing tensions between nature, history, and memory.
Born in Lexington, Virginia, Mann began to study photography in the late 1960s, attending the Ansel Adams Gallery’s Yosemite Workshops in Yosemite National Park, California and the Putney School and Bennington College, both in Vermont. She received a BA from Hollins College, Roanoke, Virginia, in 1974, and an MA in creative writing the following year. At a moment when many other photographers were creating large-scale color prints, Mann looked to photography’s past, investigating the visual and metaphorical potential of employing nineteenth-century technologies. She has long used an 8 x 10 bellows camera and has explored platinum, bromoil, and wet-plate collodion processes for making prints.
Mann had her first solo museum exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, in 1977, presenting The Lewis Law Portfolio (1974–76), a series of black-and-white photographs that comprise some of her earliest explorations into the inherent abstract beauty of the everyday. In the early 1980s she published two books, Second Sight and At Twelve, the latter a study of young girls on the cusp of womanhood. Between 1984 and 1994 she worked on the series Family Pictures, which focused on her three children, then all under the age of twelve. These works touch on ordinary moments—playing, sleeping, and eating—as well as larger themes such as death and cultural perceptions of sexuality and motherhood. From 1999 to 2012, Mann photographed Cy Twombly’s warmly lit studio in Lexington, recording the moments she spent with him there as well as the traces of his artistic life.
From the late 1990s into the 2000s, Mann honed in on her relationship with the American South, taking photographs in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana for her Deep South series (2005), as well as Civil War battlefields for Last Measure (2000). Her longtime interest in themes of death, time, and decay are also evident in What Remains (Bullfinch Press, 2003), a five-part study of mortality ranging from pictures of the decomposing body of her beloved greyhound to photographs of the site where an armed fugitive committed suicide on her property. In 2003, Mann began documenting the effects of muscular dystrophy on her husband, Larry. These candid and frank portraits, which would later become the Proud Flesh series (2009), recall classical sculpture while capturing a male subject in moments of intimate vulnerability.
Mann’s latest large-scale project, A Thousand Crossings, further explores the complex cultural identity of the American South, as well as Mann’s relationship with her place of origin—a region rich in literary and artistic traditions but troubled by history. The exhibition, which she began working on in 2006, debuted at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018 and has since traveled extensively in the United States and abroad in Paris.
A Guggenheim fellow and a three-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Mann was named “America’s Best Photographer” by Time magazine in 2001. She has been the subject of two documentaries: Blood Ties (1994), which was nominated for an Academy Award, and What Remains (2006), which premiered at Sundance and was nominated for an Emmy for Best Documentary in 2008. Mann’s Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (Little, Brown, 2015) received universal critical acclaim; it was named a finalist for the 2015 National Book Awards and in 2016 won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.
Remembered Light: Cy Twombly in Lexington
November 2, 2017–January 20, 2018
Merlin Street, Athens
Extended through April 29, 2017
Remembered Light: Cy Twombly in Lexington
January 25–April 29, 2017
Remembered Light: Cy Twombly in Lexington
September 22–October 29, 2016
976 Madison Avenue, New York
Edmund de Waal and Sally Mann
Sally Mann joins Edmund de Waal onstage at the Frick Collection in New York to converse about art, writing, and the importance of place in their respective bodies of work.
Sally Mann and Jenny Saville
The two artists discuss being drawn to difficult subjects, the effects of motherhood on their practice, embracing chance, and their shared adoration of Cy Twombly.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2019
The Spring 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Red Pot with Lute Player #2 by Jonas Wood on its cover.
Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings
Drew Gilpin Faust discusses the Sally Mann’s landscape photographs of Antietam, a site that more than a century ago, bore witness to one of the bloodiest battles in the American Civil War.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018
The Spring 2018 Gagosian Quarterly with a cover by Ed Ruscha is now available for order.
Sally Mann: Remembered Light
Edmund de Waal and Sally Mann discuss Cy Twombly’s relationship to photography, Mann’s pervasive interest in the American South, and the context behind her newest body of work.
In Sally Mann’s new memoir Hold Still, her lyrical prose and startlingly revealing photographs make up an original personal history that has the page-turning drama of a great novel. In this interview with Derek Blasberg, she reflects on discovering family history, her relationship to criticism, and why she will never leave Virginia.
FIAC Online 2021
March 2–12, 2021
Gagosian is pleased to present Printemps oublié for the first online edition of FIAC. This curated presentation reflects the dual character of springtime as a reminder of past trials and the harbinger of a vibrant new season to come.
All the artworks will appear on the Gagosian website and a rotating selection will appear in the inaugural FIAC Online Viewing Rooms, from March 4 to 7.
Jeff Koons, Bluebird Planter, 2010–16 © Jeff Koons
Sally Mann has been awarded the 2020 Centenary Medal by the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) of Great Britain, in recognition of her sustained, significant contribution to the field of photography. Founded in 1853, the RPS aims to make the art and science of photography more widely accessible. The international charitable organization is dedicated to increasing knowledge and understanding of photography and film, supporting photographers, and inspiring public engagement.
Sally Mann, Georgia, Untitled (Kudzu), 1996 © Sally Mann
Plan Your Vote
Created in 2020, Plan Your Vote is an initiative of Vote.org that harnesses the power of the visual arts to promote and empower citizens to exercise their right to vote. The organization has collaborated with artists, including Davide Balula, Sally Mann, and Patti Smith, to create a public library of voting advocacy images, available for anyone to download and share, in order to help ensure everyone has a voting strategy and is vote ready. To check if you are registered to vote, or learn more about your voting rights, visit vote.org.
Artwork © Sally Mann
Sally Mann in
Through September 5, 2021
Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz, Austria
This exhibition, whose title translates to Real Wild Child, presents works by 170 international artists from 1900 to the present day. Strong on critical acumen, empathy, irony, and humor, the artists document children’s happiness as well as their frustrations. Work by Sally Mann is included.
Sally Mann, Holding Virginia, 1989 © Sally Mann
New Symphony of Time
Opened September 7, 2019
Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson
New Symphony of Time expands the boundaries of Mississippi’s identity, casting light on a shared past to help reflect an expansive, more inclusive future. The exhibition aims to explore personal and collective memory, history and the connection to place, and the roles artists play in pursuit of civil rights and racial equity through ancestry. Themes include migration, movement, and home; shared humanity; environment; and liberty. Work by Titus Kaphar and Sally Mann is included.
Sally Mann, Deep South, Untitled (Emmett Till River Bank), 1998 © Sally Mann
Contemporary Photography from the Whitney Museum of American Art
December 18, 2020–March 15, 2021
Asheville Art Museum, North Carolina
Vantage Points features a selection of photographic works from the 1970s to the mid-2000s that highlights how photography has been used to represent individuals, places, and narratives. Drawn exclusively from the Whitney Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition presents work by approximately twenty artists, including Gregory Crewdson, Sally Mann, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol.
Sally Mann, Sorry Game, 1989 © Sally Mann
Among the Trees
March 4–October 31, 2020
Hayward Gallery, London
This exhibition brings together artworks that explore our relationships with trees and forests. Beginning with pioneering works from the late 1960s, Among the Trees surveys an expansive artistic terrain, including sculpture, painting, installation, video, and photography. The show invites viewers to consider trees as symbols and as living organisms that have helped to shape human civilization. Work by Sally Mann, Giuseppe Penone, and Jeff Wall is included.
Jeff Wall, Daybreak (on an olive farm/Negev Desert/Israel), 2011 © Jeff Wall