Posted by: chloecivin | December 16, 2011

From Carroll to Mann: What’s all the fuss about?

Both Lewis Carroll and Sally Mann experiment with visions concerning childhood.  Just as Carroll is the patriarch for the Liddell sisters, Mann serves as the matriarch for her three children, whom she so famously photographed.  Another similarity both photographers share is the controversy they were subjected to with the release of their photographs.  In 2006, Smithsonian Magazine interviewed one of Mann’s daughters regarding her thoughts on being photographed as a young child. Smithsonian Magazine states:

Sally Mann Photography

“The experience of collaborating with her mother taught her about the power of art, she says.  And she admires the way the photographs provoke questions about the difference (or lack of it) between reality and fantasy, even as they touch on something deeper.  “There is magic in things, life is magical and wonderful””.

The article also referenced opposing views on Mann’s children being the subject of her focus, stating that they were immoral and should not be seen.  A New York Times article, entitled The Disturbing Photography of Sally Mann discusses some of these controversies including problems the NYT had in depicting the images:

“The nudity of the children caused problems for many publications, including this one.  When The Wall Street Journal ran a photograph of then-4-year-old Virginia, it censored her eyes, breasts and genitals with black bars.  Artforum, traditionally the most radical magazine in the New York art world, refused to publish a picture of nude Jessie swinging on a hay hook.  And Mann’s images of childhood injuries–Emmett with a nosebleed, Jessie with a swollen eye — have led some critics to challenge her right to record such scenes of distress…”

This article was very distressing to read, as it took away from the innocence Mann, and Carroll, were intending on exposing.  Is it possible that by calling these images examples of child pornography, we are taking away the photographs real intentions? I think yes. Viewers saying that Sally Mann is selling her children to pedophiles around the world seems rather insulting.  Pedophiles I don’t think begin their quest for material via Sally Mann Photography.

Lewis Carroll PhotographyLewis Carroll’s photography of young girls, and his infatuation with Alice especially, have stirred a lot of controversy as well.  Mavor pays tribute to Gernsheim’s acknowledgement of these photographs that so many have glanced over.  An “innocent love” is generally tagged in describing Carroll’s affection for young women, which I now recognize.

Children have been subjects of the lens for hundreds of years.  Instead of vulgar or provocative, I find the photographs quite romantic and curious.  Children’s inquisitiveness is shown in how they interact with the camera.  The sense of trust Carroll and Mann must attain to capture these images should be more recognized.


  1. true

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