Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sally Mann at Harvard -- If Memory Serves

Steven Brown, from Lake Charles, LA and a graduate student in American Studies at Harvard, had the great good fortune to host Sally Mann last week during her stay in Cambridge for her lectures at Harvard University.  

The lectures were offered under the general title If Memory Serves.

Today, Steven reports on Mann's lectures on his blog. 

They were, he says, "poignant, personal, at times hilarious and at times terrifying."  

You can read his full account HERE.  Steven reports that Mann addressed directly the subject of this blog, the question of Southern photography. For this I am deeply grateful. 

Mann said, according to Steven, that there is something one can call a Southern way of seeing, a Southern photography, that "something instantly recognizable as Southern sets the Southern photograph apart, whether that photograph is of the Mississippi Delta or some Grecian ruin."
Steven reports that Mann identified this Southern quality in Southern artists' willingness to "risk the total failure, or total success, of their work on their own romantic and sentimental inclinations," walking a "tightrope" between "sentimentality and intellectual rigor." 

Southernness in photography is the result of operating in that tension.  The best Southern photographers, like Mann,  sustain that tension in their work, while the mediocre ones  fall off. 

This is good stuff. Steven promises that Mann's lectures will be published, and soon. I can't wait. 

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