Photographs of landscapes signifying death and decay is the specialty of Sally Mann, an American photographer who was earlier known for photographing children in black and white. She was born in Virginia and in 1969 completed her studies at The Putney School. She attended Hollins University and earned Bachelor in Art degree in 1974 and a year later Masters degree in creative writing.
She made her debut in photography at Putney with a photo of a nude class fellow. Her father supported her interest in this field and he let her use his camera for learning the basics. After graduating, Mann found a job at Washington and Lee University as a photographer. She photographed the law school building, Lewis Hall during its construction. This led her to a solo exhibition in 1977 in Washington, D.C. at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. These surrealistic photos were later a part of Second Sight, first book by her in 1984.
In the 1990s, Mann developed an interest in shooting landscapes using her own unique techniques. Edwyyn Houk Gallery in New York presented these photos in books- Mother Land (Recent Landscapes in Virginia and Georgia in 1997) and then Deep South (Landscapes of Mississippi and Louisiana in 1999). Several photos on large scale were taken using collodion, 19th century process.
In 2003, Sally Mann published What Remains - the book is divided into five parts and each part is illustrating a different topics related to decomposition, dead bodies, bloodiest battles and close up shots of children’s faces.
In 2005, she took out her sixth book with 65 black and white photos – Deep South. There are pictures of landscape shot from 1992 until 2004 using collodion and conventional film. The images are eerie, they depict battlefields, shrouded natural setting and moldering mansion. This piece was selected by Newsweek as the book choice for holiday.
In 2009, Mann published Proud Flesh which is a documentation of photos of six years of the effects of muscular dystrophy on Larry Mann her husband. The same year, this book was displayed at Gagosian Gallery.
In 2010, The Flesh and The Spirit was her next book which included new and early works by Sally Mann in 200 pages. The theme was illnesses and death of body. A year later, she gave lectures, and had discussions with other contemporaries over aspects and issues concerning photography.
Mann’s works are displayed in permanent collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Whitney Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Hishhorn Museum in Sculpture Garden and many others.
Mann was named America’s Best Photographer by Time magazine in 2001. Her photos have been featured on The New York Times Magazine cover twice in 1992 and in 2001.
Moreover, two documentary films have been focused on Sally Mann. The first is Blood Ties, directed by Steve Cantor and the second is What Remains, directed by Cantor again. At the Sundance Film Festival in 2006, it was premiered and was an Emmy Award nominee in 2008 for Best Documentary.
The Corcoran Museum in 2006 presented Mann with an honorary degree, Doctor of Fine Arts. Six years later in 2012 she received an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society in United Kingdom.
For many people Sally Mann is one of the most leading photographers working today.