Sally Mann’s memoir HOLD STILL does recount the storm that erupted when she published nude photographs of her children…the “scandal”, the stalkers, the vitriolic comments, the FBI involvement…and Mann’s responses, both public and private. But this is a small part of this complicated and wide-ranging book. Sally Mann is a talented artist and a very smart person who has amazing stories to tell and an infectious zest for life. Here are a few of the topics in HOLD STILL: photography (of course), the beauties of rural Virginia, her ancestry, murder and sexual scandals in her family history, boarding school and education, race relations, literature, the value of art, famous friends and acquaintances, parenthood, celebrity, philosophy, death… (you may want to skip an alarming chapter-with photos- about the Body Farm, where dead bodies are deposited to decompose, while the effects of decomposition are studied.)
Particularly poignant are the stories of her father’s life, his struggle choosing science over art, and his life-long romance with the idea of death. And of Gee-Gee, her black caregiver with whom she is most securely attached from childhood on. This is a multi-layered and fascinating book. It’s full of the deep questioning of a sharp mind. The accompanying photos enhance the words with the clear-eyed perceptions of the author. Almost 500 pages zipped by as I enjoyed this unique book.