There’s Time to Catch This Photo Exhibit


Sally Mann reflects on her love for the south while showcasing its terrible past.

Bridget McAree, Staff Writer

Photographer Sally Mann has made haunting photographs for over 40 years that explore the overarching themes of existence: memory, desire, death, the bonds of family, and nature’s indifference to human endeavor. Through her photographs, Mann, who was born in Lexington, Virginia, reflects on what it is like to be a southerner and the history of the south. You can see her photographs at the High Museum through Feb. 2. 

Mann, who is white, uses her deep love of her birthplace and its troubled history to make photographs that pose provocative questions about history, identity, race, and religion. Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings is dedicated to the black woman that helped raise her, Gee-Gee. Although Mann considered her to be family, Gee-Gee experienced racism that Mann stayed oblivious to throughout her childhood. For example, when they would go on family vacations, Gee-Gee stayed in the car when the family ate at the “white only” restaurant. 

It wasn’t until Mann’s adulthood she realized this and began to take into account the impact this had on her beloved caregiver. Her artworks are emotional and meaningful. Many of her photographs depict nude children playing outside to represent the struggle for independence and freedom but desire for connection as a child. She also depicts African-American men to be fragile and weak, as a direct connection to their ancestors past as slaves. Mann says, “My goal was to establish such a level of trust as to suspend, if only for that short time, our racial past.” 

Clarence John Laughlin, the creator of the exhibit Strange Light, was also at the High Museum until November 10. The photographer also concentrates his artwork around his southern heritage. From social commentary, to constructed narratives, to bizarre material experimentation, Laughlin’s desire to push the limits of photographic paved the way for generations of artists and the growth of the medium into a tool of photography. He is popular for his manipulation of light on objects to create illusions and abstract images of mundane buildings or objects.