Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Sally Mann

An excerpt from a question and answer session between Sally Mann and Stephen Cantor, director of What Remains - interesting what Sally Mann has to say about misconceptions about the responses to her work.


QUESTION: Steven, when you were filming "Blood Ties," did you in any way anticipate that "Immediate Family" would be controversial?

    STEVEN CANTOR - I think we all thought it would be significantly controversial. It was the day of the Mapplethorpe uproar; parents were being arrested for taking naked snapshots of their children, and one had her kids taken away from her; Jock Sturges had his whole life turned upside down by the FBI; Alfonse d’Amato ripped-up a Serrano photograph on the floor of the Senate. It was a crazy time, and Sally seemed to be stepping into the eye of the storm. The funny thing is, her pictures were received very acceptingly and non-controversially - that word has come to be associated with Sally, but at the time there was really very little public outrage. On the contrary, the pictures were widely hailed and embraced and purchased en masse.

    SALLY MANN - But, in the way of mushrooming misperceptions, the facts haven’t gotten in the way and there is still a generalized sense that I was either arrested, threatened, denounced on the Senate floor or investigated, none of which happened, of course. In fact absolutely nothing happened to me except a radio personality in Minneapolis ranted about the pictures, some feminist critics tut-tutted and an antediluvian reviewer in North Carolina waggled his finger at me for the nudity.

    STEVEN CANTOR - I still wonder if maybe you somehow managed to slip under the radar or something. We have never really discussed it, but why do you think there was ultimately so little fanfare around your exhibition and subsequent book of those pictures?

    What separated you from Jock Sturges at the time? The fact that you were the kids' mother?

    SALLY MANN - I don’t think I slipped under the radar, I know I was very much in the radar but they chose not to come after me. One of the first things I did when I heard about Jock’s situation was to make an appointment with the head of the FBI agency that had conducted that raid. I went up to Quantico with Larry and the kids and we met with him, showed him the prints and asked him point blank if they were going to come after me. He said he was familiar with the work, it had been brought to his attention and, no, they were not going to do anything to me. He made some comment similar to Justice Potter Stewart’s to the effect that he knew child pornography and this was not it.

    So, having that assurance I felt safe from that quarter, but there was still the religious right. Our local Pat Robertson was one of the right-wing Christian preachers who was loudly condemning the work of many artists, but I was hoping that Mr. Robertson might be cognizant of a peculiar relationship that obtained between us: my father very likely delivered him and had been his family’s physician when Mr. Robertson was a child.

In the end, I think the fact that I was the children’s mother, the fact that I was clearly a fighter and would have been able to garner a lot of legal support (my brilliant high-profile lawyer Richard Sauber offering his services in case anything should happen to me) and the fact that the pictures were “reality based”—i.e. the nudity was not something imposed on the children but was a natural state of their summer lives, all contributed to my security.

1 comment:

Timothy Briner said...

Great Documentary.

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