Mann in 2007
|Born||Sally Turner Munger
May 1, 1951
Lexington, Virginia, United States
â€¢ National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship: 1982, 1988, & 1992.
â€¢ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1987.
â€¢ Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, 2006.
â€¢ Honorary Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society, 2012
Maintaining the dignity of my subjects has grown to be, over the years, an imperative in my work, both in the taking of the pictures and in their presentation.
I was just taking pictures to see what they looked like. Just for the fun of it. It wasn't about anything in some cases. Some of them were just about the joy of opening up an aperture and seeing what shows up.
I don't know what the instinct is, to save every report card, every half-sentence scribbled note, but my mother did it pretty effectively, and I've done it to a fare-thee-well.
I think the media is a fear-mongering operation. They love to rile their viewership up or to scare them.
I don't like memoirs. I think they're self-serving, and people use them to settle scores, and I really tried not to do that. You have to have a really interesting life to justify memoir, and my life has been pretty ho-hum.
Though I made my share of mistakes, as all parents do, I was devoted to my kids. I walked them to school every morning and walked back to pick them up at 3.
Eventually, my highbrow parents, who so hated the Eisenhower suburban culture of the 1950s that the only magazines they subscribed to were 'The Atlantic' and 'The New Yorker,' broke down and got 'Life' magazine.
I'd park myself in the bookstore and read with one eye on everyone coming in. I remember reading a Robert Bly book of poetry.
The fundamental thing about my personality is that I think I'm an imposter.
I baked bread, hand-ground peanuts into butter, grew and froze vegetables, and, every morning, packed lunches so healthful that they had no takers in the grand swap-fest of the lunchroom.
I'm the weird person who completely loved and devoured 'Middlemarch' but who has not finished far shorter and more readable books due to distraction or the fact that by some miracle I am sleeping through the night.
The two sensibilities, the visual and the verbal, have always been linked for me – in fact, while reading a particularly evocative passage, I will imagine what the photograph I'd take of that scene would look like, even with burning and dodging notes. Maybe everyone does this.
It's usually so fraught when you're taking a picture. I work with an 8-by-10 view camera and there's a, you know, hood that I put over my head, and it's tricky and complicated.
I have no animus toward digital, though I still pretty much take everything on a silver-based negative, either a wet plate or just regular silver 8×10. But I've started messing a little bit with scanning the negative and then reworking it just slightly.
I remember when the family album came out, people would just knock on our door because they thought they knew us, and that, of course, is one of the great hazards.
I had written my master's thesis on Ezra Pound on 'The Cantos.' And don't ask me about it. I don't remember anything about it.
Each time you take a good picture, you have the wonderful feeling of exhilaration… and almost instantly, the flip side. You have this terrible, terrible anxiety that you've just taken your last good picture.
If I take enough pictures, I'm going to get a good one, and I know not to stop at a bad one.
It's a touchy subject, but as a Southerner, you can't ignore our history any more than a Renaissance painter can ignore the Virgin Mary. And it's impossible to drive down a road or eat a vegetable or pass a church without being reminded of slavery.
To be able to take my pictures, I have to look, all the time, at the people and places I care about.
I couldn't be Susan Sontag. I'm not very good with abstract thought. I always just take to the emotional core of me.
When you look at your life as an artist, you do see that when you get to be 60, you're coming – this is the last chapter.
I taught up in Maine a couple of times and wasn't able to take a single picture. All that blue sky! Ugh. Sparkling clear air, just terrible. I couldn't do it.
I have three libraries. As a gift, a friend alphabetized and organized my main library of novels, history books, and nonfiction. Then I have a photo-book collection. Then there's this nearly whole room of my childhood books. I've also got cookbooks and a big collection of horse-related books.
I have had a fascination with death, I think, that might be considered genetic for a long time. My father had the same affliction, I guess.
I'm not an ardent feminist – well, maybe I am an ardent feminist. I just roll my eyes at the way women are constantly used and how sensitive men are about photographs of themselves.
Increasingly, the work I'm doing is in service to an idea rather than just to see what something looks like photographed. I'm trying to explore how I feel about something through photography.
Time, memory, loss and love are my main artistic concerns, but time, among all of them, becomes the determinant.
I'm just the opposite of a lot of photographers who want everything to be really, really sharp. And they're always, you know, stopping it down to F64.
I just started taking pictures, and it was – it was an instant love affair. It was just ecstatic.
The thing that makes writing so difficult is you don't have the element of serendipity. At least with a photograph, you can set up the camera, and something might happen. You might be a lousy photographer, but you can get a good picture if you just take enough of them.
I feel I'm a strange mixture of insecurity and strength. Most of us, probably most people. I'm transferring that same concept to the people I photograph.
I work all the time. I never leave home. I mean, I just stay honed in on what's ahead.
Matte digital prints are gorgeous, don't you agree? But the glossy digital prints, I just can't stand that paper.
When I read something, I picture that scene in that detail. That becomes very similar to composing a photo in real life.
You start blocking out things, and that's a really important part of taking a picture is the ability to isolate what you're – what you're concentrating on.
It's not a lack of confidence, because I can't argue with the fact that I've taken some good pictures. But it's just a raw fear that you've taken the last one.
When we were on the farm, we were isolated, not just by geography but by the primitive living conditions: no electricity, no running water and, of course, no computer, no phone.
I'm not a good photographer, not a good writer. I'm a pretty regular person whose insecurity is so pervasive that it makes me always feel vulnerable.
I try and take the commonplace – and some of it is writ large, like death – take the commonplace and make it universally resonant, revelatory, and beautiful at the same time.
At the age of 16, my father's father dropped dead of a heart attack. And I think it changed the course of his life, and he became fascinated with death. He then became a medical doctor and obviously fought death tooth and nail for his patients.
When I read, I take notes and underline things. So reading is a vigorous process for me, but I read in bed. My poor husband is trying to go to sleep, and I'm reaching over him to get the Post-it notes.
Don't get between me and a really good picture in the darkroom, because then I want to go straight to the darkroom and develop it. But once that's done, I'm fine.
Writing is much, much harder than taking pictures because you have to man-haul it all out of your insides.
The whole nature of photography has changed with the advent of a camera in everybody's hand.