Sally Mann Biography

Photographer Sally Mann (1951-present) has become synonymous with the American South, beloved for capturing its landscapes and people alike with her camera. Born and still residing in Lexington, Virginia, Sally Mann's photography — especially intimate portraits of her family — has attracted controversy but always pushes the art world's envelope, informing other young photographers' eyes. Sally Mann explored many aspects of the photographic medium throughout the 1970s, however her work exploring everyday elements of childhood remains some of her most famous and moving photography work. The photographer has worked with color, yet seems most drawn to producing images in black and white. Two documentaries, Blood Ties (1994) and What Remains (2007), have focused on Sally Mann as the subject; the former title was nominated for an Academy Award.

Born Sally Munger, Mann's physician father first introduced her to photography. She started studying photography at Vermont's Putney School as a teen in 1969, studying an additional two years at Bennington College under photographer Norman Sieff. There she met and proposed to Larry Mann, whom she is still married to today. She received a Bachelor's degree and later a Masters from Hollins College in Virginia before working as an architectural photographer for Washington and Lee University throughout the mid-1970s.

Photographer Sally Mann used a 100-year-old 8-by-10-inch camera to start photographing 12-year-old girls in 1983; the ensuing book and series, At Twelve (1988), pulled at the thread of relationship psychology. In Spring 1992, Sally Mann pushed through her first controversy, sparked by her black-and-white portrait series, Immediate Family, which featured images of her children, occasionally shot in the nude. Despite raising questions of possible exploitation of her family, Sally Mann's photography has always been praised as a genuine exploration into the complexities of childhood. The '90s drew Sally Mann to more landscape work, primarily shot in Georgia and Virginia. She also started photographing her husband's muscular dystrophy progression after he was diagnosed in 1997. Sally Mann has published more than a dozen photography books, including an ode to the late American painter Cy Twombly, Remembered Light: Cy Twombly in Lexington (Abrams Books, 2016). Her memoir Hold Still (Little, Brown, 2015) was a bestseller and named a finalist for the National Book Award.

The artist has been recipient of numerous grants and awards, including Guggenheim Foundation grants. Sally Mann's photography has appeared in countless public exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Smithsonian Institution and, in 2018, the retrospective exhibition A Thousand Crossings at the National Gallery in Washington D.C.