Hold Still / 1

Beginning with pieces of our bookclub unfolding here. I just got my book and am reading slowly, but steadily and urge anyone interested to please pick up a copy this month. Discussions will wrap up sometime in Mid  – late October. In the meantime, various posts dedicated to chapters and excerpts of “Hold Still” will land here sporadically as we go. 


———————————–Sally Mann via Vogue Interview————————————-

Will you write another book?

No, I don’t think so. I’m beginning to see that I have limited time, and that’s such a shock. It shouldn’t come as such a big surprise to me that I’m suddenly old, but it has, and I’m getting a little panicked about it. I don’t think I have time to do any more writing. If I want to deal with what’s left of my photographic life, I’m going to have to get on it.

Writing a memoir like this also demands a commitment to really go there—to unpack those boxes in the attic. How did writing it compare to working on a photographic series?
It was excruciating. I didn’t even know I wanted to write this book. But in a certain sense, I was transported, it poured out of me. The way it came to me was almost the way pictures come to me. It was almost irrepressible at a certain point. I didn’t want to do it. I was scared to death of it. I didn’t expect to do it. I had no plans to write a memoir. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be in this position. But once I got started, it’s though I just tapped into some hidden reservoir of experience and memory. Then, those boxes. Once I got into those boxes, I thought, This is too good to let go of.

One of those boxes that you unpack in the book is the ruckus over the images in Immediate Family. Looking at the photographs now—they’re positively Edenic—it’s hard to imagine anyone reading something exploitative in them, or even to remember what a tremendous firestorm they sparked.
Not for me.

Do you think our culture has changed a lot since then?
Yes, with the exception of the right wing, I think the culture is less puritanical. And I think, with the advent of the Internet, we all know about the existence of very real and serious forms of child exploitation.

The controversy really foreshadowed the kind of privacy issues we’re wrangling with today. It’s not just attitudes toward art and nudity that have changed; image culture has changed.
There’s no doubt about that. The whole nature of photography has changed with the advent of a camera in everybody’s hand. Yesterday, I was walking down the street in New York City, looked up and saw a man who was washing windows without a harness, and the whole street was lined with people with their cellphones up in the air, waiting for him to fall.

What do you make of that?
I don’t know. Is it any different than Henri Cartier-Bresson waiting for his decisive moment? I don’t know. Are the pictures getting better? That’s the real question.



9 Responses

  • Coming back here looking for discussion and reflection on this book.

    I read this while on family vacation. I was happy to have something to immerse myself in when I needed to tune everyone else out. Sally Manns writing is excellent. I loved learning the stories behind the photos. When she “opened” the box of her families history i was hooked. In my own attic I have 2 boxes of family photos I saved from my grandparents estate. I wonder what stories they tell.

  • I kept Hold Still at the top of my ‘to do’ list and didn’t seem to ever get it done! This week I received an email from The Modern that Sally Mann would be speaking and signing books at EXACTLY the same time as the Middle School band concert. I wrote on FB that if anyone was there to please have Sally sign my book “The Middle School Band concert is better than hearing me speak. Lets grab a beer later. Sally” I came home this week to the book from my sweet friend Sally (not Mann) with that exact autograph. The best! I am really enjoying it and I love the way she writes.

  • Just received my copy as a gift – my book club has kept me busy the past few months – can’t wait to dive in and come back here to read the comments.

  • Just wanted to come back to say that I absolutely adored this book and devoured every chapter. I was compelled to tell strangers about it when I was reading in public. It is totally “my kind” of book and I knew it would be from reading the descriptions. I love art, artists and especially the south. Plus, she is from my parents’ generation (slightly older) and so her life gave me a peek into the life of my parents during the 10 mysterious years they were married before having children. (Can you imagine?) I was fascinated by the issues surrounding the photographs of her children who happened to be naked – peoples’ strong reactions and her naiveté (in my opinion) about what people would think. I guess she had no idea it would be seen by a larger audience than her previous works. I also loved the parts about death and it made me think of the experience my husband of 4 months and I shared when we were present for my grandfather’s last moments on earth. I still think my Aunt and my grandfather had some sort of agreement and she went a little heavy on the morphine at the end. (My grandfather was adamant about how things should be up until his last breath and I respect him completely about wanting to be in control of his exit.) It was the kind of book I did not want to end. After I finished, I went on YouTube and spent a few hours listening to interviews, etc. I looked for her photography books at the library before realizing I could see them on her website. Just writing about it – I wish I could read more more more! I found her writing to be SO SMART. I started Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, right after, and no disrespect to Patti, but the writing was so … simplistic … compared to Sally’s that it took me a while to get into it. My one criticism is that I think, maybe, Sally failed to touch on her privilege throughout her life – and the lives of her children. She obviously is very aware of her status in society that came from her parents and ancestors, but she doesn’t seem to “own up” to the ways in which she directly benefited from all of that. I don’t know. I just didn’t feel that come through. Maybe she doesn’t see or feel her privilege, thought I think she is too smart of a person not to. Anyway. A +++++++++ Thanks, Jessica, for tossing it my way!


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