What Does Remain?

This film may be old news for many of you, but over the weekend I watched the Steven Cantor film What Remains which was made for HBO.  The film follows photographer Sally Mann through the five years it took to make her What Remains body of work. 

I have owned the What Remains book since it first hit the shelves, not because I am a Mann worshiper, but because I was captured by the work.  I have my own questions about death, which I have started to explore with my Arizona Graves work, and Mann’s images scared the hell out of me as well as hypnotized me.

You can search the Internet and find tons of reviews of this work, and read blog post stating how the images are not art etc.  The sad fact is even though I like the work, I knew little about Mann’s reason for making it or her thoughts about it, until I watched Cantor’s film.  Needless to say it answered many questions that I had, and has made me look at her images in a new way.  By hearing was Mann had to say about the What Remains work, and watching her making it, I understand more about what she explored with the project, and how I might continue with my own.

I have heard many things about Sally Mann, and many may be true, but I have a great amount of respect for her as an artist because like me, she makes her images first and foremost for herself.  As an artist/photographer I think that the power that her imagery captures, and its ability to fix ones gaze while repulsing another’s is something to not be afraid of.  To me this is a sign that a valuable exploration is taking place not only by the artist but by the viewer.

No matter your personal view of Sally Mann’s work, or the idea of photographing death in general, I feel that this film by Steven Cantor is well worth seeing.  If you can find it, check it out!


~ by Phil Nesmith on August 7, 2007.

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