anyone who knows me…knows that sally mann has been a longtime inspiration. like…HUGE, HUGE inspiration. before i knew any better (in the very beginning of my photography journey), i tried to copy her work. as embarrassing as this is, here is the photo, taken sometime mid-2006 (after purchasing my DSLR jan 2006)…
then i began to learn, grow, evolve and begin to discover the artist that i am myself. and i tried again…to do a candy cigarette photograph in my own way (i loved candy cigarettes growing up). taken feb 2007 and i remember being so, so proud of this photograph…
and then i continued to learn, grow, discover and appreciate…
fast forward to a few days ago. i got to hear sally mann speak…and meet her (even if it was for the briefest of moments). i’m pretty sure i was asking her if we could pretend to be best friends in this picture…or something like that. lol.
to be honest, i dreamt about the day i might meet sally mann, but wasn’t sure it would ever really happen. just kept hoping, dreaming…believing.
sally spoke at university of michigan’s michigan theatre, which was incredibly beautiful. and having grown up in detroit, it was awesome to be back in the area, after 20 years of being away.
sally (can i call her sally?) read an excerpt from the book she is writing and shared a new body of work that will accompany the book. in her work, she is photographing black men. seeing her new work was awesome. hearing the background and inspiration for this new work was that much more incredible. she’s hoping to publish the book and show the work (as 30×40 prints) in the next few years.
the talk was followed by a Q&A session and book signing. i had brought two sally mann books with me to ann arbor, but, to my sadness, i had left them in my hotel room (immediate family was actually the first photography book i ever owned). i asked chrisstina, who was running the show, if she thought i had time to run back to my hotel to get my books. she said, “hurry…run fast“. so that’s exactly what i did. my sickly self ran as fast as i possibly could handle, back to my hotel room — returning in time to be the last person to have books signed.
chrisstina was pretty shocked to learn that the group of us had traveled from FL, NY, MN and canada, to listen to sally mann speak. so we begged, along with chrisstina’s encouragement, to get a photo with sally. all we had were our iphones and light was minimal…but who cares, right?!!
my sally dreaming isn’t quite done yet. i dream to one day photograph sally and maybe her whole family. i dream that i can talk to her more. she strongly discouraged the audience of photographing our own kids, but didn’t expand upon the topic, which i found interesting. needless to say, i have lots of questions regarding the topic.
all in all, it was absolutely amazing — and i am really, really grateful!!
stay passionate, work hard (really hard) and don’t ever give up on your dreams. you just never know when it will all pay off and your dream(s) will come true. :-)
ETA: there’s been a lot of feedback, thoughts and questions voiced regarding the obvious — why did sally mann discourage the audience from shooting our own children. and i don’t know the exact answer. her statement was a response to a question asked about her book, ‘immediate family’ (although i can’t remember the exact question). most of the Q&A time was spent discussing sally’s new work and the discussion about photographing her own kids was very minimal.
i do NOT think sally meant don’t photograph your children at all!! and i’m pretty confident that her statement revolved around her choice to photograph her children nude, but i just wish she had expanded more on the topic — especially since i, myself, photograph my children a lot and very often, for personal work / projects. obviously she and / or her children were affected by sally’s journey of photographing her children. but i don’t believe it’s as straight forward as that. i don’t think it can be directly applied to me / us, without discussing and considering all the surrounding factors (then and now). i love photographing my children. they are my muses. they are part of the art that i am currently creating. and i feel that i photograph them respectfully. they are always aware of the resulting photograph and they know and are aware of what i share publicly (especially if the photograph is a bit moodier, edgier, etc.).
regarding if there was anything that surprised, intrigued me, made me rethink…
sally mann shared that she’s a bad photographer and a compulsive printer. i had heard her say this before in an interview but it still is a bit strange to hear her say it in person. she was very open and willing to answer any question that was thrown at her. i loved that but wish we had had more Q & A time.
i pretty much suspected, but it was confirmed that sally mann is very private and doesn’t get in public very much or even talk much with other artists. it took something like six years of trying, to get her to speak at UM.
i was a bit surprised that she was reading an excerpt from her book as i had hoped that she would just be sharing and talking to us on a variety of topics (she’s a brilliant writer). i believe that her book is going to be great and in the end, will probably be more informative and educational than hearing her in person.
someone asked her how she found the black men, who were / are her subjects in her new work. she shared that she sees someone interesting in her town and will just ask them. she pays them $25/hour and will typically work with them for 1-1/2 hours. she says she is as uncomfortable as they probably are through the process of photographing them.
i just came across this harvard link, which shows a few of images from sally’s new work. the reading that she shared with us was a smaller version of the reading she did at harvard.