Anne Higonnet at Public Books:
In her memoir, Sally Mann cites a saying: when an asshole makes good art, he is remembered as an asshole who made good art, but when an asshole makes bad art, he’s just remembered as an asshole.
But when someone who made good art is accused of being a Bad Mother, can she ever be remembered as anything but a Bad Mother?
In 1992, Mann’s book Immediate Family tapped into collective anxiety about child pornography and made her the most notorious art photographer of her generation. The book has since become a classic in the history of photography, and a milestone in the history of childhood. Mann’s memoir proves, however, that there is more to her career, and more to a relationship between life and work, than maternity. Most of the gorgeously crafted black-and-white analogue photographs she has created since the 1970s have been about places haunted by death, not about children. And what kind of mother could have produced Immediate Family belongs within a larger issue. Or that, at least, is what Mann’s memoir stretches our minds to consider. Extraordinary artists, even when they are mothers, Mann reveals, require personal sacrifice from those around them, as well as from themselves.