Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Jessie Mann then and now...

The current issue of Aperture has a good piece written by Jessie Mann, daughter of Sally. I'll spare you the horrible scan I made of Jessie's recent collaboration with photographer Len Prince. To be honest, I don't love the work, a few beautiful images are offset by others that are a little too Cindy Sherman-esque for my tastes. But I think what she says about her mother's work (depicting her and her siblings naked summers in the country) is really a nice coda to the whole Sally Mann experience. Jessie quickly dismisses any lingering controversy surrounding the notion of child exploitation as "puritanical idiocy." She goes on to say, "...despite the way those photographs complicated and expanded our lives, I believe that the entire process was for our own good, because it was done with faith in art."

You know, it never occurred to me that those amazing little kids would grow up and have their own lives and thoughts about the taking of those photos. As Jessie correctly states, "Those images, our childhood stories, our very characters, were consumed by an outside meaning, which was in a way bigger than we were. As we grew up we didn't just grow into ourselves, we grew into the larger conception of our characters that others projected for us."

To me, an article written by Jessie Mann is as unthinkable as an article written by Polythene Pam. In other words, my experience of her was purely, selfishly, aesthetic and fictionalized to the point of denying her any existence whatsoever. To have her "come to life" twenty years later and comment on the experience and assert her own identity is a welcomed mind-blower, one that adds a completely new dimension to those images and my experience of them.

For all those times I thought that photography had less reality-warping effects than other artistic media, I must remember this example. And for all those nameless people in great photographs whose soul was stolen by the camera and scattered around like advertising, I'm sorry. I'll do my part and try to remember that art should not eclipse or disparage an actual life unless it specifically means to do so.

As for Polythene Pam, 99 cents and she's yours.


Blogger Candy the Pomeranian said...

Please scan it. I can't find Aperture in my area!


6:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you- especially for the last paragraph, you have added to my faith that this projects will change minds. jessie

11:51 AM  
Blogger dawn m. said...

wow. you really hit the nail on the head here. jessie's voice and preception are quite as captivating as the images she helped to create. your thoughts on this really resonate for me.

10:52 AM  

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