Sally Mann
[Photographer, b. 1951, Lexington, Virginia, lives in Lexington.]

 When the good pictures come, we hope they tell truths, but truths “told slant,” just as Emily Dickinson commanded. 
 Exploitation lies at the root of every great portrait, and all of us know it. Even the simplest picture of another person is ethically complex. 
 The act of looking appraisingly at a man, studying his body and asking to photograph him, is a brazen venture for a woman; for a male photographer, these acts are commonplace, even expected. 
 The hardest part is setting the camera on the tripod, or making the decision to bring the camera out of the car, or just raising the camera to your face, believing, by those actions, that whatever you find before you, whatever you find there, is going to be good. 
 If transgression is at the very heart of photographic portraiture, then the ideal outcome—beauty, communion, honesty, empathy—mitigates the offense. 
 Stop trying to get it right. Just take the picture. 
 Photograph what is important to you, what is closest to you, photograph the great events of your life, and let your photography live with your reality. 
 Like all photographers, I depend on serendipity, and when you’re photographing children there’s often an abundance of it. I would have an idea of what a photograph would look like and then something would happen—a dog might lumber in and become a critical element. I pray for what might be referred to as the angel of chance. 
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