i was asked by professional woman photographers to partake in a series of blog articles called 30 By 30 in honor of women's history month. it features 30 contemporary women photographers and the women photographers who inspired them. thank you to catherine kirkpatrick for editing my writing to make sense.
i don't normally consider myself someone who has many, if any, influences. i do a lot of research before i start my personal projects so i always considered my influences to be writers, historians, sociologists, and less other photographers. of course there are many, many photographers whose work i admire, just none i felt so connected with that they or their work somehow shaped even a part of my imagery. as happens more and more lately, i found i was wrong. the question posed by professional woman photographers was very specific, "which woman photographer influenced you most." it was the woman bit that made me remember how much i had once admired sally mann's work. i still do. i picked up at twelve and immediate family again to reacquaint myself with mann's work before i answered the interview and i found myself sucked into those powerful photos again. it's hard to put the books down, once you start looking it's nearly impossible to stop looking.
i find myself reacting very differently to immediate family now than when i first discovered the images over 20 years ago. in my 20's, as a young photographer still in college, i looked at the images from immediate family with admiration and a longing to make work as rich and of consequence. i still think it's a powerful, force of a book. now that i am a mother with children roughly virginia's and jesse's ages in the book, i am a little taken aback that a mother could use her children so skillfully and manipulatively. i do think this is what makes mann the great artist that she is; she took that step into risky territory few would have and exposed her children over and over to a hungry audience. i know that i could never do this to my children. but then would i? i have a sleep portrait of my son emmett that was recently edited out of a magazine at the last minute when the photo editor noticed he was sleeping with one hand down his pants. i found this incredibly funny if not a little conservative/prissy. that photo showed emmett as the emmett i know and love. i am guessing the beautiful mann children ran around naked and looked glorious probably as often as i find emmett sleeping with his hands down his pajamas.
it's been over 20 years since immediate family came out. the mann children are now adults. it seems unsurprising that jesse (for me the child whose images were the most loaded, riveting, and complex) is the one child who seems to be struggling with her identity. of course this is a huge assumption on my part, reading into the images she made with len prince. perhaps this is who jesse is and would have been regardless of the kind of exposure she received at such a young age. perhaps we see more naked photos of jesse in the series as she felt most comfortable with her body. as a parent, i find i am not willing to take that gamble with my own children.
while i may dabble here and there with sending pictures of my children into the world, i always keep in mind how this will effect the children when they are older. i care too much for their privacy and my first instincts are to protect. i wonder if this makes me weak, if i lack the courage to make great art. regardless if it's my own children or another subject i know i have responsibilities to them all and make decisions regarding their portrayal in my edits, in camera and after. i always err on the side of kindness. i know this makes me a good person, just not sure if this makes for the strongest images.