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

 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. 
 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. 
 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. 
 When the good pictures come, we hope they tell truths, but truths “told slant,” just as Emily Dickinson commanded. 
 Stop trying to get it right. Just take the picture. 
 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. 
 Sometimes I think the only memories I have are those that I’ve created around photographs of me as a child. Maybe I’m creating my own life. I distrust any memories I do have. They may be fictions, too. 
 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. 
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