i am always telling my students and those i mentor that the most obvious and best projects are just at your front door….so it is a concept i endorse and have indeed lived…yet, i need to re-learn it all the time and the subtleties therein…so sure, it was clear and obvious that i would two years ago launch on a drive across country and do medium format work on American Family…keyed off all the work i had done on my own family…good idea, and i moved on it…what never occurred to me until a combo of the family exhibit in Madrid last spring (which i viewed as a work in progress at the time) and something my son Bryan said to me yesterday, is that i was indeed “done” with this project after taking the very first picture….after all, isn’t a family album complete even if there is only one picture in it ? how many pictures does a family album make? everyone always asks me regarding projects “how do you know when you are finished?”….my usual answer is that you just “know”…you simply feel it is done…
the incredible revelation for me on this one was that i was finished as soon as i started….so, i am done….
in other words it is a movable feast…always a work in progress and always ready to be shown at any time…..for this one there could never be an end and at any point it is finished…i can do a 15 print show as i did in Madrid , or a 100 print show , or a 1,000 print show using the contact sheets alone , or a combo and with hard copy albums and big prints and videos, well, the whole bit……a two book boxed set…one of my own family who i have documented since 13 til yesterday….and the other the med format work of families from all over my country….this of course could have no end internationally once i complete the U.S. work.
my love of family and extended family runs deep…my relationships at Burn, Magnum, NatGeo, are akin to familial bonds (often with all the drama to go with it!!)…that will lead to yet another book (trilogy?) no joke just called “Photographers (i have known)” for i have religiously documented them (i have everybody) as well and all of my students and Burn audience etc etc etc…for those of you who have met me, i most likely have taken your picture, right?…..so this work is family as well…
Sally Mann Charlottesville, Virginia 2008
so, forget all of my pictures of the world ….what will be important is all the work i did “on the side”…the family snaps…yup, those will be IT i am sure….knowing that now makes me wish i had tried harder…but, i guess that is the whole point…i didn’t TRY…it simply happened….
this simple revelation is of course totally a game in my head…nothing physical has changed…nothing has happened…EXCEPT the way i am thinking about something….a something that was right in front of me…yet this, as we all know IS everything…for those of you who have studied with me, this is a real work in progress right before your eyes….just as Road Trips and Burn have been as well…i am sure you can all see it…and feel it…there is no way to beat that which is organic…authenticity is the benchmark…
as we swing into the holiday season and the end of 2010, reflection is always our mantra….throwing out that which does not work and moving towards things which do….i doubt any of us get it exactly right, but willingness to change and push new initiatives forward is after all our being….
are you finishing something up or starting something new? or both?
yes, my holiday lights are up all year…they get blown around in the wind, fall down, get skewed, a real work in progress….just like me..