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What Remains Hardcover – September 23, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Mann's previous collections, Immediate Family and At Twelve, recorded the bodies of children with a frank, slightly detached sensuality at a time when public hysteria around issues of child sexuality was sharply on the rise. The fact that many of the images were of her own children left Mann particularly vulnerable to charges of exploitation. But though controversial, what deflected such accusations was the serene flawlessness of Mann's pictorialist photographic technique, which somehow contained her very real provocation without necessarily resolving it. An even deeper sense of subtle disturbance pervades the four suites of photographs that make up this latest collection, whose subjects are mortality and death. In the two most graphic and difficult sequences, the remains of a beloved family dog and the corpses at a forensic lab are given equal emotional weight, equally luxuriant and pitiless memorialization. The difficult and time-consuming glass-plate process Mann employs, which results in an often dark, stressed and uneven surface, mirrors both the decay of the subjects and the movement of time that has claimed them. In another set, the almost invisible traces left by the death of a fugitive on Mann's property are recorded in washed-out images that convey with numb bleariness violence's psychic consequences. But in the book's most successful sequence-depicting the Civil War battlefield of Antietam-there are no literal traces of the dead at all, only an overwhelming psychic weight, which is reflected in intensely dark surfaces pocked with fissures and holes that at times resemble fields of stars laid over the barely visible hills, trees and fields. And if the last sequence, a series of extreme close-up portraits of Mann's (now grown) children, is less powerful by comparison, it provides the elegiac and loving coda to a book whose richness of presentation and sober subject matter work off of each other in varied and unexpected ways.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
" Excellent, if sobering, collection . . . . Shot on glass plates instead of negatives, these photo have an eerie beauty." -- Business Week
" Shocking and beautiful " -- American Photo
"Compelling and disconcerting." -- Houston Chronicle
"Rich, wrenching meditation on death and life. . ." -- Photograph magazine
Top customer reviews
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I was very impressed with her work and it still inspires me today.
I was very happy when this book arrived at my door and couldn't wait to open it. The photos of the decaying bodies is clearly not every's taste, but captured on in an extremely impressive and strong way. She treated her negatives is a way that matches the rotten look of the bodies. She carefully chose a style that gives you just enough distance to still feel comfortable but at the same time getting close enough to recognize what we see.
I had to look through these photos a couple of times to adjust myself to it and become open to what I saw. Looking at human being this way is something we have damned from our everyday life. It is not something I would put on my wall, but it is an experience I don't want to miss either.
The big disappointment comes after those photos. The other 2/3 of the book shows photos that are hardly worth the paper they are printed on. I consider myself open to a wide range of artisitc expression but not the lack of it. What we see on the following pages is like the title suggests the remains of Sally Mann's drawers where she probably found decade old films that she forgot to process. As much as I tried to like it and find something "talking" to me I simply ended up flipping through the pages more and more quickly hoping to get to the next chapter. But it never came.
No I don't think it is a waste of money, and yes I still like Sally Mann's work. I just don't have to like this book (except for the first part).
If you like her previous work, her style and extremely impressive and artistic portraits you might be very disappointed with this book as it is not remotely similar to what you might expect.
This well designed book is divided into sections that explore life and especially death in its many guises - accidental, violent, natural - and the remains of the deed, matter with which we the living must deal. There is the death of a family greyhound shown with grief and simplicity, the violent death of a criminal killed on Mann's property and the gore of that event and aftermath, a series of views of dead bodies in a morgue, and dark landscape survey of Antietam (a battlefield fro the Civil War) that is haunting and all too reminiscent of ongoing battlefields we still create, and finally some views of her own children's faces.
The camera techniques include ambrotypes and modes of developing that are both difficult and rewarding. One is left with the impact of the fine line between life and death and that vacuum that exists when one becomes the other. Some may find this particular portfolio difficult to see, but perhaps those people will gain the most from Sally Mann's meditations on life and death. Grady Harp, January 2004
What Mann has created is not definable, and doubtless each viewing experience will be different for each individual. She does not seem to be creating an agenda book as much as an human experience. As I moved through I kept on thinking about, or rather questioning myself. What is it to look at a dead body? Is it a sign of disrespect for the dead? Or is it a sign of reverence? After all, it is the easy thing to turn away from the rotting flesh of our family, but that does not mean that it is the respectful thing, right?
One would think that Mann, already an artist at the top of her profession, might be tempted to rest on her laurels. However, this new work proves that she has no intention of doing so. She bravely continues to take risks, as well as dive further into her subject matter, and what remains is one of the world's greatest artists functioning at the peak of her creative powers.
Most recent customer reviews
I had high hopes from all the hype about Mann's work with dead things.Read more