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. 
 If transgression is at the very heart of photographic portraiture, then the ideal outcome—beauty, communion, honesty, empathy—mitigates the offense. 
 Photography would seem to preserve our past and make it invulnerable to the distortions of repeated memorial superimpositions, but I think that is a fallacy: photographs supplant and corrupt the past, all the while creating their own memories. 
 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. 
 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. 
 As ephemeral as our footprints were in the sand along the river, so also were those moments of childhood caught in the photographs. And so will be our family itself, our marriage, the children who enriched it and the love that has carried us through so much. All this will be gone. What we hope will remain are these pictures, telling our brief story. 
 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. 
 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. 
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