Wednesday, January 28, 2009

what remains: the life and work of sally mann

i guess my interest in sally mann has waned over the years. i've bypassed this documentary on the shelves at the rental store many many times. the other night i couldn't find any movies that i was interested in seeing, and somehow i found myself at home with three different art documentaries. what remains was among them and it was by far the best of the three films i rented (including the meandering eggleston in the real world). in this film, steven cantor was able to both shed new light on her pictures for me and also transcend the work by presenting a fascinating portrait of the creative process and an artist's life.

one of the my favorite moments of the film: sally mann learns that pace macgill has cancelled her upcoming exhibition of "what remains." she had been exceedingly excited about the show, and when she hears of the cancellation she spends the entire day sobbing. so here she is, this artist of international acclaim, essentially as famous as any photographer can hope to be, and upon learning that pace macgill has cancelled her show, she is totally paralyzed. we watch her second guess the body of work she has painstakingly built over the course of 4 years. the scene struck me as such a clear illustration of how universal the plague of self doubt is, and that doubt will wash over all of us in vicious waves over the course of our lives.

sally mann is helplessly articulate. just one quote of many that grabbed me, in this case in reference to her landscape series:

"there is magic in the landscape. the question is whether i can get at it."

(p.s. all i wanted to do when this movie was over was grab my camera and shoot something.)

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