Sally Mann

b. 1951, American
Black Eye, 1992
Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 in.

Sally Mann, Black Eye, photographic negative 1991, printed 1992. Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 in. Museum purchase, Wachenheim Family Fund, M.2018.14.

This portrait shows six-year-old Virginia Mann, the photographer’s daughter, napping in a wing chair after a mishap with a hammock left her with a bruised eye. Virginia’s nap grants Mann time to focus the large-format camera. Although the girl’s body is motionless, the blurred wisps of hair pinned to the chair’s wing suggest a passing breeze in an otherwise still scene. The tight lines of Virginia’s folded arms and downturned mouth are echoed in the raised vertical piping along the chair’s back and bowed arms. In Black Eye, Mann transfers her maternal gaze to the viewer, providing a view that is tender, thoughtful, and pensive while also detached.

About the artist

Sally Mann (b. 1951) was born and raised in Lexington, Virginia. She cultivated a love of southern literature and photography as a teenager at boarding school in Vermont. At Hollins College, where Mann earned her B.A. and M.A., she studied nineteenth-century English literature along with the craft of poetry while honing her technique as a photographer. Mann is known for her experimentation and mastery of nineteenth-century techniques. The 1983-85 series, At Twelve, a collection of portraits of adolescent women in rural Virginia, first brought her national attention. She gained international notoriety following the 1992 publication of Immediate Family—the series to which Black Eye belongs—a seven-year series of portraits of Mann’s three young children during the family’s vacations in the Shenandoah Valley. More recent series have returned Mann’s attentions to the Southern literature and landscape.