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Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs Paperback – April 26, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of May 2015: If you have ever seen Sally Mann's photography you understand her ability to capture emotion and generate conversation. In Hold Still Mann has changed mediums but continues to deliver a strikingly rich composition. Soaked in Southern history and heritage, Mann takes us through her childhood in the Blue Ridge Mountains and her life as a mother, wife, and photographer with finely-crafted insight and honest revelation. For someone who has lived in the public eye for so long, Mann is still able to deliver surprises to the stories we thought we knew through a memoir written even more beautifully than I expected. --Penny Mann--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From School Library Journal
Most teens won't expect to read about a bizarre murder-suicide when first picking up this memoir. And yet there it is, part of a central narrative that tangles family, art, racism, mortality, and a beloved Southern landscape. The work is told through a masterful combination of Mann's words and photographs, both startlingly raw and lovely. Mann lived much of her life in the seclusion of rural family property; her three children enjoyed a rare freedom from clothing as they swam and played in privacy. Mann's photographs of the children in their naked and fierce beauty, included in this volume, were published in her book, Immediate Family (Aperture, 2005). Controversy followed. Mann eloquently describes this time period, depicting the timeless anguish of an artist whose expression defies society's mores. Young photographers will be fascinated by the author's frank obsession with capturing the perfect image. Her writing, beautifully enhanced by an eclectic array of borrowed quotes, works in remarkable tandem with her images. Teens who enjoy the intersection of words and images as expressed in graphic novels should appreciate this unique work. VERDICT For young adults considering a future in the arts, Mann's memoir is a visceral experience of that life's risks and triumphs.—Diane Colson, Nashville Public Library --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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But while "Hold Still" is nominally a memoir, Sally Mann uses the opportunity more to analyze her life-in-progress than to display it all wrapped up with a bow on top. Most of the individual chapters would work perfectly well as freestanding essays. Some explore family history (inevitably intertwined with Southern history) while others thread their way through Sally's working process and her encounters with the so-called art world.
The writing itself is meticulously detailed and personal -- and spiked throughout with wickedly funny insights (often at her own expense). But her writing is also, above all, intelligent. Simply put, Sally Mann brings a ton of intellectual firepower to bear upon a huge range of subject matter. Taken as a whole, it's wild ride (!) through the perils and rewards of living a rich and varied life.
Many artists, when they find a niche that works, continue to do the same thing so that their work slowly becomes a clone of their work. Sally's work by contrast is always evolving into new unexplored realms. I used to think that Sally was simply using the camera to see how something looked when it was photographed. However, after reading this book I've come to believe that she uses the camera not to simply see how something looks but to understand herself through the image the camera makes. Minor White wrote a thesis about the levels of photography. The first being to capture a memory, (my vacation pictures etc.). The highest level he listed was to create Art. I think that Sally reached a higher level where photography became a self exploration through the medium of a mechanical device and there is no "simply" in that journey.
This is a fascinating book, which like her photographs, is a self exploration through another medium of words. I found this book just as interesting as I do her photographs.
It is Sally as she would photograph herself, and she invites you to stand right there beside her as she is developing that panorama --- and she keeps you there, page after page.
For image lovers, and I am certainly one, there are out-takes on many pages, together with the backstories on how the images were happening inside her camera and inside her heart. Which images were included for publication in various volumes, which were not, and why. The pleasures and perils of shooting on location, towing your own darkroom trailer through the wildernesses behind you and ahead of you... searching out the perfect lighting and the perfect location, or staying home and encouraging / demanding the perfect expression from her own kids and others... and not being satisfied with anything less.
This is so much more than a book of pictures, it's a diamond.