Mann’s first solo exhibition was in 1977 and it featured surrealistic images of the construction of the new law library at Washington and Lee University where she had a job as a staff photographer. Those pictures were a part of her first book “Second Sight" which was published in 1984.
The next book was published in 1988 and it was called “At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women." In it she documented the confusing and emotional period all young women go through at that age. While it sparked some controversy, it was nowhere near as controversial as some of the pictures in her third and fourth books, “Immediate Family" (1992) and “Still Time" (1994). Those books included pictures of her children that were exhibited all across the country. Many of them showed typical scenes of childhood innocence but – in an attempt to show her children through the “natural eyes of a mother" – she included darker themes such as death, injury and sexuality. This juxtaposition of themes was viewed favorably by critics. For more on the controversies, watch the 1994 biography of Sally Mann called “Blood Ties."
The mid 1990s found Sally Mann photographing landscapes. Using the “wet plate" process from the nineteenth century and purposely damaged lenses, Mann’s landscapes are reminiscent of historical photographs. Her fifth book “What Remains" (2003), a study of morality, decay and death includes photographs from Antietam, the site where the single bloodiest day of battle in all of American history occurred during the Civil war. It ends with a message of hope and love in the form of close-ups of her children. “What Remains" is also the title of a film biography of Sally Mann directed by Steve Cantor in 2008.
If you would like to read a full biography of Sally Mann or see more Sally Mann photographs, visit your local library.