Nate Parker Photography | Beguiling Words of Wisdom from Sally Mann-

Beguiling Words of Wisdom from Sally Mann-

August 08, 2012  •  2 Comments

Off The Shelf

"Off The Shelf" Acadia National Park, 08/05/12

 Hi there- so I was doing some more photography history related research on the Youtube the other day (meaning that I was beat from work and putting my feet up and relaxing with a beer or two) and I came across this fascinating interview with the American photographer Sally Mann (Sally Mann "What Remains"), who is probably best known for her work with her children and family after having been featured in the New York Times Magazine in 1992, at which time the nudes of her children raised all kinds of controversial social issues and preachers were slamming pulpits and people were burning effigies of effigies and really the images were of the highest caliber and are unforgettably poignant and intimate. I remember seeing this documentary long ago maybe on the PBS channel or something but I wanted to rewatch it, and apparently she has become a landscape photographer of the highest order in the times since then using wet plate process and large format film backs and embracing the inherent flaws associated with that and her stuff is incredibly ethereal and amazing, and watching this one was really a transforming experience- which is what I was looking for, so I was psyched! Therefore let me share it with you, friends, fellow picture makers, and comrades:

One part really hit me right in the gut- a quote that I had to replay over and over again until I had it copied down in my notebook- listen to this:

Sally Mann: "There's always a time in any series of work where you get to a certain point and your work is going steadily and each picture is better than the next, and then you sort of level off and that's when you realize that it's not that each picture is better then the next, it's that each picture up's the ante. And that every time you take one good picture, the next one has got to be better".

"As an artist your trajectory just has to keep going up. the thing that subverts your next body of work is the work you've taken before."

"All the good pictures that came so easily now make the next set of pictures virtually impossible in your mind."

At which point, in my notebook I wrote: "do you ever feel like an interloper?" This was last week, and I'm trying to remember what I was thinking, but the gist of it was- some things are easier then others, just about anybody (disabilities with-standing) can do anything they want to do. Just like Dad used to say: "you can be anybody you want to", we can all be an astronaut or the President of the USA or a great musician or a great photographer- you just have to believe in yourself. But obviously sometimes it gets difficult, even after you've learned the thing, as to how to get better and betterer. I remember loving being a jazz musician living in Boston when I was in my twenties, but I always found the performance part of it really pretty difficult, I loved to compose and arrange and write but the performing just never really felt natural. Conversely I feel like I can blow glass almost effortlessly, even in front of an audience- I just don't feel the same kind of stress I felt as a performing musician, but that's not mine: I like to work for them now and stay in the shop as a craftsman. But the photography I want to be all mine. Here I can represent myself from start to finish and every decision from making the picture to the price I sell it for is on me, and I love it. But definitely you have to question yourself, all the time, as to am I doing the right thing here, here, and here. And I do think I'm doing it mostly right, I don't know what I'll be shooting next year or how I'll be developing my pictures- I do know that I'm going to renew my Flickr account so they can't hold my pictures hostage, but I don't really know why, other than that- your guess is as good as mine. I still really want to go to Iceland and shoot though, that's for sure.

So, I hope this wasn't a complete waste of your time and that somehow in someway your trajectory as whatever artist you are has been nurtured in some kind of way from coming here today. Have a good one and stay safe out there -Nate from Maine Usa.

And P.s. You guys and gals got any favorite quotes from photographers you want to share? Leave 'em in the comments- huzzah! -N8



Charlie Widdis(non-registered)
Inspiring as always Nate. I never thought of my photography the way she explains it, but now that I have read this, it makes perfect sense. I know I have had the feeling after taking a series of awesome pictures, that sometimes I go out, take a series of pictures that are ok, maybe even good, but not as good as the amazing series before it, and I am so let down. It is a bittersweet, but I think it gives those of us that are in it for the win a competitive edge. We will keep pushing our work to get better and better versus those people that are ok to go out each time and get ok/good. Keep it up buddy!
Paul Wheeler(non-registered)
Nate, you have hit the nail on the head with this article and also by sharing Sally's comments. I have been trying to sum up that feeling of seemingly 'treading water' within my imagery and I know many others hit the plateau too; if you let it beat you, it can really compromise ones focus (to excuse the pun). Great insight to your thoughts. Thanks for sharing fella.

PS - So I guess you have proved that enjoying a beer or two is a productive use of ones time; I fear that convincing my wife may be a little hard though. Wish me luck. :-)
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