Exhibition: ‘The Family and the Land: Sally Mann’ at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 18th June – 19th September 2010


One of the most haunting photography books I have ever opened and inhaled is ‘What Remains’ (2003) by Sally Mann. Many people say the photographs are shocking, featuring as they do documentation of a deceased pet greyhound, photos of decaying bodies out in the open field of a forensics lab (see photograph below), “the almost invisible traces left by the death of a fugitive on Mann’s property”, the dark landscape of a civil war battlefield and close up photographs of her now grown up children but there is a stillness and depth to these photographs that elevates them above such sentiments. Mann listens to the passing of time and inscribes an ode to what remains. Her gift is the photography of mortality with all the psychic weight that this entails. Not a book for the faint hearted but a stupendous book all the same.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Sam Trenerry and the Photographers’ Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.




Sally Mann
Candy Cigarette
from the series Immediate Family
© Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery



Sally Mann
Scarred Tree
from the series Deep South
© Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery



Sally Mann
Untitled WR Pa 59
from the series What Remains
© Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery



“This exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery is the American photographer Sally Mann’s first solo exhibition in the UK. Combining several series from her long photographic career, The Family and the Land: Sally Mann reflects Mann’s artistic impulse to draw on the world around her as subject matter.

The ‘family’ element of the title comprises Mann’s early series Immediate Family and the newer series Faces, both of which depict her children at various ages. The series Deep South represents the landscape, portraying images made across the south of the United States. The more recent body of work, What Remains brings together both strands of the exhibition, through its examination of how bodies, as they decompose, merge into the land itself.

Sally Mann (b.1951, USA) first gained prominence for Immediate Family (1984-94) a series of intimate and revealing portraits of her three young children, Emmett, Jessie and Virginia. Taken over a ten-year period, Mann depicts them playing, swimming and acting to the camera in and around their homestead in Lexington, Virginia. Born out of a collaborative process between mother and child, the work encapsulates their childhood in all its rawness and innocence.

Mann followed Immediate Family by focusing on the land itself in her series Deep South (1996-98). Here she is drawn to locations steeped in historical significance from the American Civil War, which left both literal and metaphoric scars on the trees and the land itself. Using antique cameras and processes throughout, Mann accentuates the sense of age in the subject while embracing the imperfect effects created by her printing process.

What Remains (2000-04) seeks to further connect human contact to the land and how the body eventually returns to and becomes a part of the land itself. This concept led Mann to photograph decomposing cadavers at the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, Knoxville, where human decomposition is studied in a variety of, mainly outdoor, settings. What Remains deals directly with the subject of death, still a social taboo. As with her other work, Mann’s subjects are sensitively handled and beautifully realised, encouraging us to reflect upon our own mortality and place within nature’s order.

In the most recent series Faces (2004), Mann turns the camera once more on her children. Closing in on their faces and using several minutes of exposure time, these works act as a commemoration of the living. Again Mann takes the accidental drips and marks created by the wet collodian process and makes them a key feature of her work.

The Family and the Land: Sally Mann at The Photographers’ Gallery is an edited version of a touring exhibition, conceived by Sally Mann in collaboration with Hasse Persson, Director, Borås Museum of Modern Art, Sweden. It has been presented at Fotomuseum Den Hague and the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne as well as in Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, Helsingborg, and Copenhagen.”

Press release from The Photographers’ Gallery website



Sally Mann
At Warm Springs
from the series Immediate Family
© Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery



Sally Mann
Jessie #10
from the series Faces
© Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery



Sally Mann
Virginia #42
from the series Faces
© Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery



The Photographers’ Gallery
16-18 Ramillies Street,
London W1F7Lw

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 18.00
Thursday 10.00 – 20.00
Sunday 11.30 – 18.00

The Photographers’ Gallery website


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1 Response to “Exhibition: ‘The Family and the Land: Sally Mann’ at The Photographers’ Gallery, London”

  1. September 10, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Wow I would love to own “Candy Cigarette”, such a dynamic photo!

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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