Muse – Sally Mann

sally mann


“For me living is the same thing as dying, and loving is the same thing as losing, and this does not make me a madwoman; I believe it can make me better at living, and better at loving, and just possibly, better at seeing.” – Sally Mann

First off, I need to thank my dearest Bethany for introducing me to Sally Mann and her book, “Hold Still”. This book touched me deeply and I loved every minute of it. The part that I related to the most was her depiction of raising kids while also living out her art. She seems to manage to reach the depths of her potential, while simultaneously raising her children and weaving them into her in art in the most raw and beautiful way.  She describes it so well… “Seldom, but memorably, there are times when my vision, even my hand, seems guided by, well, let’s say a muse. There is at that time an almost mystical rightness about the image: about the way the light is enfolding, the [kids’] eyes have taken on an almost frightening intensity, the way there is sudden, almost outer-space-like quiet….These moments nurture me through the reemergence into quotidian…through the bill paying and the laundry and the shopping for soccer shoes, although I am finding that I am becoming increasingly distant, like I am somehow living full time in those moments. ” — I can fully relate to the dance, balancing my work with those tender moments with Ember.

I appreciated how she revealed her process; spending hours upon hours, persevering through nature’s elements, requiring infinite patience from her subjects and taking many good but not great photos before finally capturing that elusive image. I find this comforting because I feel I do this in my work, I create a lot of so-so work before I finally land on something that doesn’t make me revolt. While wading through this process I tend to think that one day, it’s all going to “come together” —like I’ll finally reach the ultimate, whatever that is. She describes this phenomenon… “For me artistic leaps forward are not accompanied by thunderclaps of recognition. In truth, they aren’t even usually great leaps. They are tentative toe testings accompanied by an ever-present whisper of doubt.” This is encouraging and reminds me to trust in the subtle shifts and ever evolving nature of my work.

Finally, she digs into her ancestry in such a brave way, unearthing the good as well as the bad and embracing it all. I sadly know nothing about my ancestry and feel it’s a necessary step to discovering my truest self. This book has inspired me to dig bravely.

Have any of you read this book? Any thoughts?


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