Long before Bill Henson’s photographs started ruffling feathers, American photographer Sally Mann’s images of her own children were causing a stir. The artist saw her 1992 photographic series Immediate Family as a loving, intimate collaboration with her family, but critics accused Mann of exploitation and were upset by her depictions of child nudity.
Using a 100-year-old camera, the artist’s soft focus portrayals of childhood recall the romantic style of photographers like Julia Margaret Cameron, but they are also confrontingly honest, and for some this is the problem.
Sometimes Mann’s kids present themselves in ways in which adults don’t want to see them. The artist conveys the process of ‘growing up’. A combination of fantasy and reality, her photographs are often sensuous, sometimes disturbing. She says: “Many of these pictures are intimate, some are fictions and some are fantastic, but most are of ordinary things that every mother has seen”.
Sally Mann will be giving a talk at The National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, on Friday the 18th of June at 7pm.