Count me in on the Sally Mann fan club as well. Art is about what you see and feel; technical perfection is for Photographers. When I hang work in a gallery, it's easy to spot the photographers in the crowd. They are always way too close to the prints, looking for sharpness/details - wondering what lens/camera/film/developer was used. I'm pretty certain that Sally Mann and her amazing body of work will go down in history as being some of the most important photographic artwork created in our lifetimes. Long after many of the technically perfect, repetitious, standard landscape images are long since forgotten.
I just picked up Deep South a few days ago. While there are images that don't work for me, many of them touch me deeply. Overall, a very strong body of work. And her brief, eloquent essays give you some good insight to where she's coming from. BTW, the images are a mix of film and wet plate collodion.
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LOL! just like Redneck is one word!
Originally Posted by juan
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I must admit that I already wrote a reply to this thread a while ago (before Ole posted his), but deleted it in its entirety.... We're on thin ice here....
It's always dangerous to try to define "art", and if you involve (commercial) success into the equation, things get real messy real soon
English is not my native language, so that's another problem, too, when the issue involves rather philosophical debate...
Anyway, here's my 2 cents' (or less) worth of ramblings...
First, let me admit that I'm not a connoisseur of Sally Mann's work. I've seen her work only online, so take all this with a grain of salt - at least the parts which refer to her photos. However, I like some of her work.
The original question was about "imperfections" and "poor coating" which seem to bother the original poster.
As I said, I've only seen the prints/photos/images in question online, so I'm not exactly qualified to judge the "quality" based on puny JPEGS, but those imperfections don't bother me.
For me, what it boils down (basically) is the initial reaction to an object ("work of art", whatever...). Either your initial "gut reaction" is "I like it" or "I don't like it". No amount of psudeo-intelectual hype is going to change that.... much
Some other posters seem to blame her for being "artsy" (as in "artificial"), others look down on her as being just an imitator of earlier "pictorialists", i.e. Julia Margaret Cameron. Even if it were so, I'm not sure this is the reason to discard her work in its entirety because she's an "imitator". So what?
Is the quality of artistic (or "artistic") work to be judged only on basis of originality? I doubt it... Otherwise most of art history would have to be rewritten and revaluated.
Is it technical perfection? Hm.... I think it was St. Ansel who once said "There's nothing worse than a sharp photo of a fuzzy concept"...
Is it commercial success?
I don't think so, either - otherwise Thomas Kincaide would indeed be the greatest American artist (probably of all times ).
For me, it's usually "appeal" that does it. Either something appeals to me, or it doesn't. Reasons might differ, but it's that initial reaction that makes me skim through some photos, and take a closer look at some others that I see.
So, for myself, I find it that most of her photos have a certain appeal (no, I'm not talking about the notorious ones! - we're talking landscape shots here!) - even with scratches and everything. Maybe I would like them even more without scratches - I don't know, and, frankly, don't care.
I think we're very close to "opening another can of worms", as Dorothy aptly put it.
Whose work is art, and whose is "artsy"? What is art and what is kitsch?
Why do we like some works of art, and don't like others?
Or, to narrow it to our field - why are some photos art, and others are worthless snapshots?
Now, I'm not pretending or aspiring to be an art critic - I can only say that I like the photos which inspired this discussion. I'm not going to say that they are art or not, or defend Sally Mann or her technique or her work. To each his own. Or "different strokes for different folks".
But still, some of the replies here could indeed provide food for thought - resulting either in an interesting debate and exchange of thoughts, or a heated debate, ending in members threatening to leave, strong words and who knows what...
Sorry for the long post,
Deep South lover!
I wandered into Barnes&Noble yesterday and happened upon "Deep South". I was in love!! Mann has always been one of my favorite photographers (Keith Carter another). I agree with some that a few of the photos did not do much for me. But overall I was touched to the core!
Mann is an artist. Photography is her medium. Not all artists use their medium to technical perfection. Rather, the medium is used as a means of expression. The end result (the finished photo) is only one small step in the creative journey. The "imperfections" in her work are because she is human--an imperfect human, not a machine. Could she have done a better job technically? Yes.
Thank god she didn't!
I always have enjoyed her work and her efforts to use the medium to explore a lot of different ideas. When I first became seriously interested in photography at college in the early 80s, the library had a large library copy of "Still Time", which is a compilation of selected works from several of her portfolios. I had been immersed in Ansel Adams and Weston and when I came upon this book it was so different and so emotionally charged I made it a point to stop and look at it every time I was in the library.
Mann really approaches the medium much the same way as artists explored photography in the 20s. Man Ray, Mohly Nagy, Sheeler, Roh were all primarily painters who recognized the unique properties of lenses, film and paper and used them as tools to further thier own work in areas outside of accepted photography. In the process they became photographic artists as well. Mann has always been interested in how an old lens, or platinum or recently collodion effects the feeling of the photograph. Process has always been her pallete.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
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"Well some of us Damn Yankees love her work also!"
Bravo Denis! I agree with your comments and btw
Your command of my native language puts quite a few of us to shame!
Dave in Vegas
I've enjoyed Sally Mann's work for many years. However, the most recent work has been a disappointment for me. I wouldn't call it pictorialist and I know that Mann can be a very good printer. But, having seen several shows of the large wetplate prints, I just don't enjoy them. I know the locations, the history, the stories, but the prints evoke very little for me.
Her portraits, her landscapes from the 80's, in short her straight photography is very good. Her writing for the wet plate books is good. The smaller wet plate prints are good. But the large stuff just leaves me cold rather than chilled.
I wonder what it is about the transcription to large print size that is at fault. I recently took up wetplate collodion and thought I'd be doing 11x14 glass plate negatives to contact into long-scale albumen prints. Instead, once I got started I fell in love with the small quarter-plate positives and the imperfections from coating and processing. Everything is reversed in them laterally, the coating can cause problems as can the development and every other step. Yet these imperfections form some of the uniqueness which the plates embody. Blowing them up would cause them to lose their charm, I think.
Originally Posted by jmdavis
There's something about this process that is alchemical and soulful. It is really magical working with primitive optics and techniques and being open to serendipitous results. During the 15 seconds it takes to develop, the universe collapses into the swirling storm on the surface of the plate being held in your hand, and nothing else exists.
Mann is very talented and has been so consistently for many years. One of my faves.
You mean he's not?
Originally Posted by Denis P.
Kidding aside, well said.
The definition of "Art" has indeed been a thorny one probably for as long as there has been art (caveman: "Ugh did you see those stupid paintings on Joe's cave walls, that's not art!") Many probably do think that Kincaide is a great artist. When you get to the gut level and what you like it's hard to argue.
I do however believe that the more one is educated about art the more a work can at least be appreciated as art even if you do not like it. This doesn't just go for photography. I'm thinking of a trip I took many years ago to the Museum of Modern Art. I was young and not particularly enamoured of Modern Art. I was with a young lady who was an art history graduate student. She took me to the Modern so she could practice a lecture she was to give. Wow, talk about having one's eyes opened! I learned the language, if you will, of many schools of Modern Art. Once I understood the techniques--the vocabulary of the art--I was able to appreciate what I saw and know it was Art even if it was not something I'd hang in my home!
I think thats called judging a thing on it's own merits.
And Denis, anytime you want to open a thread on Mann's "notorious ones" count me in! Now there is a topic we'd have to wear our Nomex suits for!
[SIZE=1]I want everything Galli has!
[SIZE=1]I want to make images like Gandolfi!