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. In 2021, she received the Prix Pictet and was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame. 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.
Photo: © Annie Leibovitz
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
rue de Ponthieu, Paris
Remembered Light: Cy Twombly in Lexington
September 22–October 29, 2016
976 Madison Avenue, New York
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2023
The Spring 2023 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Roe Ethridge’s Two Kittens with Yarn Ball (2017–22) on its cover.
Sally Mann and Benjamin Moser
During the 2022 edition of Paris Photo, Sally Mann and Benjamin Moser sat down for an intimate conversation as the first event in Gagosian’s Paris Salon series, initiated by Jessie Fortune Ryan. In light of Moser’s Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Susan Sontag, Sontag: Her Life and Work (2019), recently translated into French, the two discussed the power and responsibility tied up in their respective practices of photography and writing.
Sally Mann: Vinculum
Join Sally Mann at her studio in Lexington, Virginia. Filmed at work in her darkroom and within the surrounding landscape, she discusses her exploratory approach to making and printing pictures, what draws her to the landscape of the American South, and her newest body of work, Vinculum.
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 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.
Fairs, Events & Announcements
Paris Photo 2022
Deana Lawson and Sally Mann
November 10–13, 2022
Grand Palais Ephémère, Paris
For the 2022 edition of Paris Photo, Gagosian is pleased to announce a joint presentation of works by Deana Lawson and Sally Mann. The two artists collaborated to choose photographs from one another’s oeuvre, including some that have never before been exhibited. The resulting selection establishes a dialogue between their respective practices, using portrait, landscape, and interior imagery to examine themes of identity and representation.
Gagosian’s booth at Paris Photo 2022, featuring photographs by Deana Lawson and Sally Mann. Artwork © Deana Lawson and © Sally Mann
Lucie Award 2022
Sally Mann will receive a Lucie Award for achievement in fine art at the gala ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York on October 25, 2022. The Lucie Awards were launched in 2003 as part of the Lucie Foundation’s mission to honor master photographers, discover and cultivate emerging talent, and promote the appreciation of photography worldwide.
Sally Mann, Lexington, Virginia, 2015. Photo: © Annie Leibovitz
Sally Mann is the winner of the ninth cycle of the Prix Pictet, which aims to harness the power of photography to draw global attention to issues of sustainability, particularly concerning the environment. The thematic focus of this award cycle is “fire.” Mann has been recognized for her Blackwater series (2008–12), a multifaceted exploration of the Great Dismal Swamp, which spans the border of Virginia and North Carolina. Viewed by the artist as “a vessel for the memories of the complex struggles enacted upon it,” the swamp was long a treacherous refuge for people escaping slavery, and had been devastated by wildfires by the time Mann photographed it. The award ceremony took place at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on December 15, 2021, in advance of the opening of an exhibition at the museum showcasing the twelve photographic series shortlisted for the prize.
Sally Mann, Blackwater 3, 2008–12 © Sally Mann
Opening this Week
Sally Mann in
I’ll Be Your Mirror. . .
June 8–September 2, 2023
Moss Art Center, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg
I’ll Be Your Mirror. . . features painting, sculpture, photography, and performance and that explores the hidden relationships between the self, community, and land. The exhibition encourages viewers to consider their impact on the world and embrace a more sustainable and equitable future. Work by Sally Mann is included.
Sally Mann, Remembered Light, Untitled (Door and Painting), 1999–2000 © Sally Mann
Sally Mann and Cy Twombly
Opened November 23, 2022
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
This exhibition brings together three sculptures by Cy Twombly, on loan from the Cy Twombly Foundation, and thirteen photographs by Sally Mann from her Remembered Light series (1999–2012). Twombly and Mann were both born and raised in the southeastern state of Virginia. Mann photographed Twombly’s Lexington home and studio over several years, from 1999 until after his passing in 2011. Through her lens, she sought to capture aspects of his life, his inner world, and his appreciation for the past. Appearing alongside Twombly’s sculptures, the photographs—pervaded by the same themes of life, mortality, and remembrance present in Mann’s other work—form a poetic dialogue between these two friends and their powerful artistic visions.
Installation view, Sally Mann and Cy Twombly: Remembered Light, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, November 23, 2022–May 7, 2023. Artwork, front to back: © Cy Twombly Foundation, © Sally Mann. Photo: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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
No Place Like Home
January 31–April 28, 2023
Schingoethe Center, Aurora University, Illinois
No Place Like Home features artworks by more than thirty artists who address the concept of home from multiple perspectives. The exhibition features photography, sculpture, video, paintings, textiles, and printmaking and explores the many facets of home as a place of joy and sorrow, rest and labor, refuge and danger. Work by Theaster Gates and Sally Mann is included.
Sally Mann, Candy Cigarette, 1989 © Sally Mann