02 Jul 2018

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings

Peabody Essex Museum

Reviewed by Jonathan Simcosky

Sally Mann, who received no formal training yet is one of the United States' most distinguished photographers, is perhaps most famous for inflaming America's culture wars with tender portraits of her three young children, often naked. Some of that early work is among this sprawling exhibition of 115 photographs exploring family, place, and memory. Throughout, death and decay in her native South provoke related aspirations to innocence.

Scars, blood, and specters haunt the large-format photographs, most of them black and white. Blurs, streaks, and scratches, fatal mistakes to most, become marks of meaning as Mann exploits the technology of her medium: antique lenses, high-contrast Ortho film, and the 19th-century collodion wet-plate process.

Subjects that might feel distant or irrelevant under another's gaze - Civil War battlefields, a bloody nose, black bodies - are visceral and agonizing when the viewer follows Mann's lead to look at them as though for the first time.

Exhibition Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings link
Start date 30 Jun 2018
End date 23 Sep 2018
Presenter Peabody Essex Museum link
Venue 161 Essex Street, Salem, MA, USA map
Image Sally Mann, Deep South, Untitled (Scarred Tree), 1998, gelatin silver print, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund, image © Sally Mann

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