Hold Still , A Memoir with Photographs, by Sally Mann


Sally Mann brings us her memoir through the viewfinder and lens of her camera, handwritten journals, the sequential events of ancestors and things found in old boxes. The views are from different perspectives but coming together they bring a unique approach of narrative and image to memoir.

Mann’s focus is on family, race, mortality, and the landscape of the American South. She retells the stories of her ancestors presenting personalities and events of interest but also searching for DNA explanations for her own characteristics.

The yellowed photographs she finds by sorting through boxes of family papers seem to be made to be presented with her own black and white photos that she developed herself. Pictures of a variety of drawings and report cards blend into the photo theme that she has woven into her personal history.

The chapters seem like mini books. Several were about the lives of her children growing up portraying their domestic routines and showing how those routines changed their lives. The pictures in these chapters were ones where she recorded much of those lives in scenes where no clothing was present and which Sally Mann, as a well known photographer, has had much written and said about them over the years. The memoir in these chapters gave her a platform to discuss her perspective on art.

The comment on the back cover that “In this extraordinary memoir, a unique interplay of narrative and image, Sally Mann’s abiding concerns………..are revealed”, is not just a introduction but sums up how you may feel when you finish this different and interesting memoir.


“I believe that photographs actually rob all of us of our memory.” 

“You lost the remembrance of pain through inflicting it.” 

“The proverbial hospitality of the South may be selectively extended but it is not a myth.” 

“Part of the artist's job is to make the commonplace singular, to project a different interpretation onto the conventional.”

  “But like a high-strung racehorse who needs extra weight in her saddle pad, I like a handicap and relish the aesthetic challenge posed by the limitations of the ordinary.”