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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.
I bought the hardback version of the book because I thought I would have some of her photography to enjoy along with the prose. Sadly the publishers chose to print the photographs not on high quality glossy sheets, but straight on to the cream colored pages. They lack definition and they are washed out. They don't do any justice to this fine photographer's life and work. It's a pity they were cheap in producing this work.
Sally tells us her life, with details, but the purpose is no other than that we understand that every fact, every meeting, every look is building the floor on which we founded our work, which we decide to be or that we Is inevitable.
The story of his Gee-Gee babysitter, the embarrassment of his in-laws, the mystery of his father, the "great" Larry Mann and his farm, his territory, that "Not only is abundant, with the kind of obvious beauty, Every day, that even a baby can appreciate, but also features the world-class drama of Virginia "; Everything is relevant, but not because it accumulates in his DNA, as a journalist insidiously insisted in a recent interview, but because Sally's gaze makes it relevant, analyzes, scrutinizes, integrates.
Reading the book generates the same feeling of hearing her speak, especially in the documentary "What remains", we recognize the lucid artist, who selects with wisdom and quickly discards. But what the book can show us, and which largely escapes orality, is the critical ability that Sally has, culturally critical, and the clarity of concepts. Not many artists have, like her, the ability to articulate their concepts in clear language.
The book touches fundamental themes of our human condition, such as death, love, beauty and racism. In the latter, racism reaches the bone when it tells us in a chapter on his project of portraying black men: "Exploitation lies at the root of every great portrait, and we all know it."
Not a single direct advice, no shortcut list, what Sally offers us in this book is nothing more nor less than a confession, I insist, a work, in which we can see ourselves reflected or not, that can make us think, tremble, as in The chapter in which he describes how he took photographs at the University of Tennessee Anthropology Research Center; Known as the Body Farm, a program that studies how human bodies, in the open air, decompose. "One thing about the helpless dead hit me right away: the need to fix them, to join their drooping lips, to close their prying legs, to cleanse the eyes of liquefaction."
Beyond the awareness that we are willing to produce art, or even to be able to do it, Sally urges us to pay attention to the evidence of existence that we leave in our lives and how that evidence shapes us, that's where we must look again , and again; There is our life and, if we want, there will be our art.