Dealing with grief is hard to bear, especially when a death is very shocking and unexpected. Having lost my dearest friend not even three months ago, the pain is very much still apart of who I am. Having stated this, something does ease the sorrow and that is exhibitions like that of Sally Mann’s. It might seem to others a rather bold choice to see an exhibition, which overtly shows decaying bodies, but what this brought to me was a new perspective.
Sally Mann’s exhibition at The photographers’ Galley is a collection of projects including “What remains” which presents us with decaying bodies, decomposing into the land at the Tennessee research facility. Each image is titled with what seems to be a reference code and a date only. The images are beautiful, a stunning tonal range warms the cold tone of the work and the skin appears like stone or dirty, waxed leather. What becomes apparent is the sensitivity that has gone into these images. As I looked deep into each remains, I felt a sense of understanding, a comfort, that my loss was not separated from these, that his beauty was still tangible in the images I made before his death. It is difficult to explain, but having peered into Mann’s images, I gained a new perspective for my grief.
The image above, titled “Was Ever Love, 2009” from the series Proud Flesh, is a stunning image that comforts and although not related to the previous series, links directly. This photograph, produced through the Wet-Collide process, like all the new work sings memento mori. The tilted head, the unfocused shoulders, the closed eyes, it is as if you are looking into an open casket. I want to take this opportunity to thank Sally Mann wholeheartly for showing the world a new way of looking, and reminding me the beauty of death.
Image copyright Sally Mann 2009, courtersy Gagosian Gallery.