Controversial forms of art. Sally Mann.


You never know when innocence may turn controversy. You can hardly predict some simple things to appear to be complex. And whether morality is a subject for a discussion, I mean morality in art. Should we separate these themes? Art for art’s sake? Should art be apart from any form of morality? Or may be art should be didactic and then it is a true art though? Well, it is still controversial subject indeed and both sides seem to be right and convincing defending the notion.

If you haven’t heard the name of an American photographer Sally Mann at least you have seen her black-and-white pictures. She started her career in the 1970s. But for many she is well known as a photographer of her three children Emmett, Jessie and Virginia. This collection is titled Immediate Family that was executed in the very beginning of the 1990s. The collection includes more than 60 black-and-white pictures of the her kids. At the time they were under the age of 10. The photos are really amazing. They remind me old photos as if they were taken in the 19th century. And of course it is not only about the color and composition. It is mainly about the atmosphere and mood of the pictures. Something strange and mysterious surrounds what we see even though we see nothing special. In fact it is daily routine of her children, we see them playing and swimming, making faces and pretending to be adult. But at the same time she touches on the theme of loneliness and sexuality, insecurity and even death.

The Immediate Family is great indeed. But at the same time these pictures triggered a wave of indignation. How come? The point is that that the kids depicted in the photos are nude. For some period of time it was pretty disputable subject concerning the problem of child pornography. Thus the exhibition held in Helsinki, Finnland in 2008 appeared to be pretty controversial for the visitors who required “to investigate whether or not Sally Mann’s pictures are an offence against human dignity”. Well, it sounds a bit absurd. Actually I’m not for exposing child nudity but to require an investigation… Well, guys I wish the Police Department investigated something more serious but not artistic themes.

Another time the Wall Street Journal censored the picture of Mann’s nude 4-year-old daughter. But at the same time Sally Mann doesn’t see any problem in it. At least she has absolutely different point of view considering the photos taken by her. So in the case the key word is the motherhood. Thus she says that these pictures are supposed to be “natural through the eyes of a mother, since she has seen her children in every state: happy, sad, playful, sick, bloodied, angry and even naked”.

And this time she is more convincing then nobody else.“These are photographs of my children living their lives here too. Many of these pictures are intimate, some are fictions and some are fantastic, but most are of ordinary things every mother has seen – a wet bed, a bloody nose, candy cigarettes. They dress up, they pout and posture, they paint their bodies, they dive like otters in the dark river”. What do you think about it?

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