Sally Mann (American b. 1951), Jessie, 1984, silver print, 19 ½ x 23 ¼ inches
Selected by: Estefany Molina
Typically pictures of children taken by their mothers are reserved for the photo albums. More often they are very topical: by the kiddie pool, graduations, birthday parties. They are a record of a child’s transformation during their formative years. Sally Mann has made an art of photographing her children not solely as her offspring, but as beings in the world too. The pale, blonde androgynous girl lays relaxed in a swallowing black bed looking into the camera. Their emotion is as undecipherable as the Mona Lisa, except the child is showing too many emotions. At first she seems stoic, however the right eye seems sleepy while the left is glaring with worry; yet the eyebrow remains unwrinkled. They just keep staring, and one can’t help but stare back. It is strange to lay an innocent child amidst an expansive blackness. The deep blackness that absorbs the child and wild look of her left eye play together showing the depths of the child: the vastness of her possibilities. A child is just as complex as the tangled threads lying on Jesse’s torso. And only to their mother would they pre-reflectively reveal this sort of sincerity. Although the photograph is incredibly strong on its own, it is important to know that her mother captured it. Otherwise, it would not have been possible. Only a mother could achieve the sort of intimacy this captures.