The above image is made by one of my favourite purveyors of the art of photography, Sally Mann. Her work as I have covered before, has a dream like quality with the Southern Light she uses and is truly inspiring. These three kids clearly have attitude and if anyone knows her worked they are clearly loved, nurtured and photographed in the way only Sally Mann can do so.
I have certainly not tried to copy this image, but have responded to it by showing three children with different attitudes and their wider (immediate) family, the book which the Sally Mann image is taken from. In my image there are two boys and one girl. I have converted to black and white but have deliberately not copied the tonal qualities of the above image. Due to the process Mann uses to make and develop her images, they develop a mystical tonality which I would never try to emulate.
I am unable to discuss the context in relation to Terry Barrett and his essay as any link to Terry Barrett’s website is broken and will not load. There I have no way of accessing this. I have tried on numerous occasions to access this but to no avail.
I am responding explicitly to the three children, their attitude and their wider family, which although cannot be seen in this image, is a question that springs to my mind when I see the image. i.e. are they related and who is their family.
In my response I have decided to show the childrens’ wider family and I have given them a setting and context, unlike the Sally Mann image.
The Mann image is a posed one, with all the children posing away for their mother, something to which they have grown accustomed, due to her many works she has produced of her family. In my response, although this is a posed image, the three children, two of which are brother and sister, are all behaving slightly differently with only the girl being attentive to the camera. In contrast the adults are all aware of the photographer and are well-behaved.
The aim of Mann’s image is for me to portray the kids as they are and the are the sole subjects of the image, with the background deliberately kept out of focus, adding to the mystery of where they are and who they are. It is clear though that this is an outside shot, which appears to have been lit by ambient lighting. Mann is an absolute master of this and she maximise the ability of her full format camera and bellows to full effect. Her image would have been tripod mounted, where as my response was hand-held.
In both images the children are the main focus of the image and spite the inclusion of the adults in my response, I did not want these to detract from the children. You can see in my image the affection of the adults, but the way the adults are touching them, yet in Mann’s image, this love may not be at first apparent due to the stares manufactured by the kids and captured so wonderfully.
Whilst both images contain only ambient light, the two light qualities are so different. Mann’s Southern mystical light works it magic with a dappling effect probably created be the trees in her garden, where as the lighting in my image, comes from a set of widows with a couple of overhead candle style bulbs. They are both extremely different in light quality, but my position could not be moved as the setting was the only real place for such a posed photograph. It also was necessary to shoot there, to give context to the image via the setting and so I could donate this image to the metropolitan, for his own archives.
Mann’s image does not contain any props, where as my image contains a number of props in the form ofgifts given to the Metropolitan and a drawing made by the children and their parents as a welcoming gift.
The two images, whilst both containing three children are miles apart in terms of photographic light, style, context, quality, meaning, setting, tonal qualities and yet they both work in very different ways. In my image, there are only two English people, whereas the three children are all native to the photographers home land.
There is both a studium and a punctum in both images as Barthes woud say.
To summarise, both images contain three children, but there the similarities end.