Blog / Work of the Week: Candy Cigarette by Sally Mann

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by J Caldwell

It’s Valentine’s day and instead of a gift of a teddy bear holding a heart, a dozen roses or chalky hearts with messages on them, we are instead giving you an altogether different treat.

Sally Mann, Candy Cigarette, 1989. Toned gelatin silver print. Edition 20/25.
Collection of Frank Konhaus and Ellen Cassilly
The Cassilhaus Collection

Sally Mann is an American photographer born in Lexington, Virginia and was inspired by the photographic works of Diane Arbus. She was named America’s best photography in 2001 by Time magazine. Her photos are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of New York City among many others. Candy Cigarette is now on view at the Nasher Museum as part of Light Sensitive: Photographic Works from North Carolina Collections.

Candy Cigarette, from her honest and controversial series Immediate Family, captures one of her three children, Jessie (now a model and artist), in a defiant and self-aware pose, staring down the lens at her mother, holding bubblegum cigarette. The photo, taken on a 8 x 10 view camera, reveals a maturity in Mann’s daughter, then aged 10, that teeters towards ennui. It seems this photo alone straddles the complex transition from child to adult and the unsureness of those first footsteps, but the blind determination to take those strides. There is an intimacy and an unwavering intensity in Candy Cigarette, and indeed in Immediate Family, that underscores Mann’s desire to capture raw and real moments of her blossoming children. She captures the love that a mother has for her children.

Sally Mann has received the National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship: 1982, 1988, & 1992, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1987, Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, 2006, and Honorary Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society, 2012.

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