If you are a photographer of my generation, chances are you’ve taken photos with an 8x10 camera, either because you where a Still Life photographer, a Landscape photographer, or like me, someone who wanted to take advantage of the magnificent look and unique colors of the 8x10 polaroids, very much in vogue in the 80’s. And if you’ve also tried to do so outside on location, then, you know how challenging and how difficult it was to get any sense of spontaneity out of your subjects because of the desperately slow process of maneuvering such a cumbersome and heavy instrument, even with the help of assistants. One has to know this is not film rolls but sheets on plates we are talking about, upside down, and everything manual.
So when you learn that Sally Mann took all the pictures in IMMEDIATE FAMILY with such a camera, you can only be impressed.
To be able to capture such natural, often spontaneous and private moments on 8x10 is truly amazing. How she succeeds in being invisible despite such a huge camera. So much so, that as she says in her own words: “At times, it is difficult to say exactly who makes the pictures. Some are gifts to me from my children: gifts that come in a moment as fleeting as the touch of an Angel’s wing.”
Sally Mann has lived, raised her children and worked all her life in the foothills of the BlueRidge mountains in South Western Virginia, and you can definitely feel the southern time pace, along with the wilderness of the place, but also the wildness of that way of Life.
All the photos are of her children living their lives. Some are posed and set up, most are very intimate, but ultimately, they are all of ordinary things when you are a child: a wet bed, a bloody eye or nose, dressing up, role playing in some fiction with your brothers and sister, …in other words, growing up.
And IMMEDIATE FAMILY is a beautifully poetic, touching and naked testimony of what it’s like to be a child in that environment.