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Saturday, 29 December 2007

Mother and Child

Happy New Year - here's to a great 2008.

A few blasts from the past to start the New Year.

One of the difficulties Jill Greenberg mentioned in her BJP interview was that of being a photographer and mother - a problem experienced (far more deeply and disturbingly I suspect) by Sally Mann who really made photography of children critically acceptable. Mann's a modern pioneer in showing how children lived, breathed and felt the world around them - but she did get lambasted for her troubles.

In Pictures of Innocence, Anne Higonnet writes, "What really shocked people was that Mann was the mother of the children she photographed." Mann's "...representations of maternity are suffused with desire, not desire in any single sexual sense, but in a much broader sense, including the need to flaunt the physical beauty of children who are flesh of their flesh, and the ambition to cast themselves simultaneously as mothers, as disturbingly creative artists and as successful professionals."

It's the last bit that some people find difficult according to Higonnet - a mother who has "...an artistic impulse on the subject of her own maternity, who lets it go beyond the narrow limits of ideal Romantic innocence, is bound to offend."

The people who are offended have, it seems, an implicit idea of an imaginary idealised motherhood and childhood which bears no relation to the physical and emotional realities of either state. Where those idealised childhoods/motherhoods come from is a question that Higonnet attempts to answer in her wonderful book - and one I will touch on throughout the coming months.

The Alligator's Approach - copyright Sally Mann

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