The frightening beauty of Sally Mann’s children

L to R: Sally Mann's photo of her daughter, Virginia, on a 1990 cover of Aperture; a Wall Street Journal response; Virginia's response to the Journal.  From the NY Times, copyrights Aperture, WSJ, Sally Mann.
L to R: Sally Mann’s photo of her daughter, Virginia, on a 1990 cover of Aperture; a Wall Street Journal response; Virginia’s response to the Journal. (From the NY Times, copyrights Aperture, WSJ, Sally Mann.)

Sally Mann on the frightening beauty of her children, in the New York Times Magazine. I find this an especially moving reflection.

That’s the critical thing about the family pictures: They were possible only because of the farm, the place. America now hardly has such a thing as privacy, at least not the kind we had at the cabin. How natural was it, in that situation, to allow our children to run naked? Or, put another way, how bizarre would it have been to insist on bathing suits for their river play, which began after breakfast and often continued long after dark, when all three would dive like sleek otters for glow sticks thrown in the pool under the still-­warm cliffs?

They spent their summers in the embrace of those cliffs, protected by distance, time and our belief that the world was a safe place. The pictures I made of them there flowed from that belief and that ignorance, and at the time seemed as natural as the river itself.

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