Sally Mann’s images lit my fire for photography. I was 13 years old when I first saw one of her photographs—Candy Cigarette, an image of her daughter Jessie balancing a fake cigarette in one hand—and I felt an incredible kinship with this girl I’d never met. I was a combative, tremulous adolescent, and looking at Mann’s photograph was the first time I recognized myself in another.
A major exhibition on Mann’s work, titled A Thousand Crossings, is currently on view at the Peabody Essex Museum in the US, fresh off a run at the National Gallery of Art in the nation’s capital. The exhibition includes more than 100 of Mann’s photographs, many of which have never been exhibited or published. Delving into family, memory, ephemerality, and tragedy (both personal and national), the show is a broad and powerful consideration of Mann’s work that highlights its importance and relevance in our current socio-political climate.
I was thrilled to have the chance to sit down with Sarah Kennel, one of the exhibition’s curators, for a generous conversation about the important contemporary resonance of Mann’s new work, her fascination with death, and much more.