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

 If transgression is at the very heart of photographic portraiture, then the ideal outcome—beauty, communion, honesty, empathy—mitigates the offense. 
 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. 
 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. 
 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. 
 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. 
 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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