Children, landscape, lovers—these subjects are almost as common to the photographic lexicon as light itself. But Sally Mann’s take on these iconic themes, rendered through both traditional and esoteric processes, is anything but common. Astonishingly original both in image and technique, Mann’s work consistently challenges the viewer: in her hands, experiences drawn from daily life are rendered both disquieting and sublime. Now, having studied relationships between parent and child, artist and subject, life and death, Mann’s Proud Flesh (Aperture/Gagosian, October 2009) investigates the bonds between husband and wife.
Exquisitely detailed, intimate, psychologically and emotionally intense, Proud Flesh engages territory most often inhabited by male artists portraying their wives and female lovers as Mann turns the camera to her husband of 39 years, Larry. Beautiful, textured, and provocative, these unprecedented nude studies neither objectify nor celebrate; rather, they go far under the skin to suggest a relationship between man and woman that is profoundly trusting: sensual, sexual, sometimes painful, often indescribably tender, and always unblinkingly honest.
In previous projects, Mann has explored the relationships between parent and child, brother and sister, human and nature, site and history. Her latest photographic study of her husband Larry Mann, taken over six years, has resulted in a series of candid nude studies of a mature male body that neither objectifies nor celebrates the focus of its gaze. Rather it suggests a profoundly trusting relationship between woman and man, artist and model that has produced a full range of impressions – erotic, brutally frank, disarmingly tender, and more. While the relation of artist and model is, traditionally, a male-dominated field that has yielded countless appraisals of the female body and psyche, Mann reverses the role by turning the camera on her husband during some of his most vulnerable moments.
One of America’s most renowned photographers, Sally Mann lives and works in Lexington, Virginia, where she was born in 1951. Mann has received numerous awards—including NEA, NEH, and Guggenheim Foundation grants—and her work is held by major institutions internationally. Her many books include What Remains (2003), Deep South (2005), and the Aperture titles At Twelve (1988) and Immediate Family (1992). A feature film about her work, What Remains, debuted to critical acclaim in 2005. Mann is represented by Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Award-winning poet and author C. D. WRIGHT (essay) has published more than nine collections of poetry, including String Light (1991) and Rising, Falling, Hovering (2008), and One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana with photographer Deborah Luster (2003).
This new series will be presented at Gagosian Gallery starting on September 15.