Maiden Voyages: July 2016

Original Art for the Masthead: A couple of artists have approached me about the design of Pigtails in Paint’s masthead. So far, it has been composed by Pip from existing images and he never got the inspiration to create original art for it. Therefore, we are offering the opportunity for artists to have their original art appear as Pigtails’ banner for one year. Approved new images will appear beginning in mid-November. There are a few guidelines to make the design consistent with Pigtails’ image. 1) Naturally, it should feature a little girl or girls (optimum age around 8, but we are certainly flexible on this). 2) The girl should have pigtails of some kind. 3) And Pip had the idea that the girl should be holding a brush (or other artistic instrument) and appear to be finishing up the lettering in the title. 4) The color scheme should be appropriate—”warmer” tones. Examples of past mastheads can be seen here to give you an idea of past styles.  You can include the motto or let us add that in.  We do not require the original artwork so long as a scan of sufficient quality can be provided.  We look forward to your submissions and Ron will work with you every step of the way.

Bodies, Dressed and Undressed: Coincidences are remarkable and just as I finally got access to some of Flor Garduño’s published books, Pip and Christian inform me that there are better versions of the many images used in the two posts on this site (here and here). There is a wonderful introduction by Verónica Volkow in the book Inner Light (2002) which eloquently expresses the artist’s attitude about the relevance of nudes and flowers and their connection.  A slightly abridged transcription has been posted here.

Why Do All the Good Guys Die So Young?  We must sadly report that Emmett Munger Mann, son of acclaimed photographer Sally Mann died on June 5th in his home.  No information about the cause of death has been released.  It is always tragic when parents outlive their children and doubly so in this case, because Emmett was so interested in the cause of justice.

Screenshot of Sally with Emmett during the filming of The Genius of Photography (2007)

Screenshot of Sally with Emmett during the filming of The Genius of Photography (2007)

Suspense-Horror with a Twist: A colleague brought my attention to a short film called Luna (2013).  For those interested in this genre, it is worth a look.

Potent Personalities: Sally Mann

Mann’s challenging images of childhood and, by extension, motherhood have become ubiquitous. This post has been long in coming because of the nagging question: How will I ever do justice to this artist’s work? Finally, the release of Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs, published by Little, Brown and Co., this May forced my hand and convinced me that I could procrastinate no further. The book is the kind of self-examination that would have made Socrates proud and an enviable genealogical legacy to her entire family.

Sally Mann (neé Munger) was born in 1951 in Rockbridge County, Virginia. Her father, a family physician from an established Texan family, was educated in the North where he met Sally’s mother. This kind of heritage would almost inevitably make Sally a fish out of water in social circles but impress upon her an appreciation for the land itself. She took a serious interest in photography when at The Putney School in Vermont which her two brothers had attended before her. Her father introduced her to the arts and she has fond memories of several books he shared with her. One was The Family of Man (1955) and on only her second roll of film, she shot her first nudes in 1969, inspired by Wynn Bullock’s Child in Forest. For the most part, Sally bares all in her book, but out of respect for one of her subjects who now has a prominent position in a major corporation, she did not reproduce it.

Wynn Bullock - Child in Forest (1951)

Wynn Bullock – Child in Forest (1951)

Two films were produced about Sally, both directed by Steven Cantor. The first, Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann (1994), was shot and produced during the furor over the exhibitions of her child nudes and the second, What Remains (2005), gives a much more comprehensive picture of her inspirations and body of work. When I personally learned of the artist’s work, I was naturally impressed by the raw and pristine imagery, but after seeing these films, I admit to falling in love with the humanity of this imaginative and tortured soul. We begin to get an insight into Sally’s attitude about nudity by the fact that in her first two years of life, she obstinately refused to wear clothes. In fact, the assumption that nudity was an integral part of everyday childhood caused her to overstate in interviews the number of photos that existed of her in a state of undress. After a careful review, she was compelled to amend the record. Some of the photographs of young Sally reveal some of the striking characteristics to be seen later in her own children.

Steven Cantor - What Remains (2005) (1)

Steven Cantor – What Remains (2005) (1)

After high school, she opted to attend Bennington College, deciding that she was not cut out for one of the more urban schools. She met Larry Mann during a Christmas visit home in 1969 and they were married six months later. During their early years together, they traveled throughout Europe on a thin shoestring budget, much to the consternation of Larry’s socially ambitious parents. And even after visiting some of the most beautiful places in Europe, the couple felt nothing held a candle to Rockbridge County so they moved there for good in 1973. Sally shares a rich tapestry of family history including how her father first bought the land and how she later bought out her brothers’ shares so that it could become the Mann estate.

It seems remarkable in retrospect, but at first, Sally did not consider her children suitable subjects for art photography. She did the usual photos that parents are expected to make, but they were snapshots and not done with an artist’s eye. Sally has always respected the presence of serendipity in the creative process and in 1985, one of her biggest took place. Emmett, Sally’s eldest child, was born in 1980 and then Jessie came in 1981. With the birth of Virginia, she fancied that she should capture the event on film. Unfortunately, the exposure time needed to compensate for the poor lighting meant that Virginia’s entry into the world was a blur—”a dud”. A few months later, Sally took what she considered her first good family picture, Damaged Child, of Jessie’s swollen face from insect bites. She got the idea from the title of a Dorothea Lange photo Damaged Child, Shacktown,Elm Grove, Oklahoma (1936). As she continued her efforts in this vein, she began to realize that she was blessed with children of potent character. Even so, none of this would have materialized without an attitude shift. It is perhaps within the most mundane material that we find the sublime.

Sally Mann - Damaged Child (1984)

Sally Mann – Damaged Child (1984)

Sally’s family photographs are a mixture of spontaneity and deliberate composition. For example, here we can see her directing Virginia to get one of her shots.

Steven Cantor - Blood Ties (1994) (1)

Steven Cantor – Blood Ties (1994) (1)

Sally Mann - At Warm Springs (1991)

Sally Mann – At Warm Springs (1991)

On the other hand, when she sees something she just has to capture she asks the child to hold still until she can get her camera set up. These are precarious times because as time passes, some of the spontaneity is lost and the strain of holding the pose adds to the intensity of the posture and facial expression. In one of Sally’s favorite images, she had the camera nearby and was able to shoot The Perfect Tomato. The strange title was the product of haste; the tomatoes were the only thing in focus in the shot. The lens flare was a happy accident that gave the subject an angelic quality. In Blood Ties, Jessie described her memory of how it happened.

Steven Cantor - Blood Ties (1994) (2)

Steven Cantor – Blood Ties (1994) (2)

Sally Mann - The Perfect Tomato (1990)

Sally Mann – The Perfect Tomato (1990)

In 2000, Melissa Harris interviewed Jessie Mann who was preparing for her freshman year in college. Among other things, she spoke about the nature of her relationship with her mother.

When we were taking pictures, it created a relationship with Mom that’s very different from other people’s relationships—much more powerful…Because there already is a very powerful bond, then add to that the bond between artist and subject…On top of being our mother, she became a whole lot more. So that made our relationship stronger, but of course more complicated. -Jessie Mann, 2000 (Aperture No. 162, Winter 2001)

The combination of an artist’s eye and a desire to get the image just right created a kind of ambivalence within the family. On the one hand, it is flattering to get so much attention, but getting the image right sometimes meant a seemingly interminable effort. In the case of the image The Last Time Emmett Modeled Nude, 1987, when she first saw Emmett in the water, she did the usual and asked him to hold still. Shot after shot did not come out to Sally’s satisfaction and over the next 7 or 8 days, Emmett patiently followed his mother’s instructions until everything was right: the light, the reflection in the water, the eye level, Emmett’s position in the water, Emmett’s position in the frame and the right pose and facial expression. The title, which later came to have a double meaning, was meant to express the exasperation after such an ordeal. Several versions were reprinted in Hold Still to illustrate this process.

For the most part, Larry and the kids were good sports and for that reason, Sally has to give equal credit to her subjects for the successful collaboration. But sometimes, as Emmett remarked, whenever one of them noticed that look in their mother’s eyes—when she suddenly “saw” a picture—if one was not in the mood for another photo session, one had better make himself scarce. Or if there was no way out of it, the kids could torment their mother in more subtle ways. The top shot of all three kids appeared on the cover of Immediate Family, but the bottom illustrates one of the variations where the girls have softer facial expressions. Emmett confessed later that during this shoot, he was moving his body ever so slightly forward and back to keep his mother from getting the perfect focus.

Sally Mann - Emmett, Jessie and Virginia (1989) (and variant)

Sally Mann – Emmett, Jessie and Virginia (1989) (and variant)

Despite these battles of will, the family members recognize that Sally brings out something special in the seemingly ordinary.

…She sees the world in images. -Larry Mann (What Remains, 2005)

It’s almost like she sees something happening and she just thinks to herself, “I know that this is special—what I’m seeing right here.” -Emmett Mann (What Remains, 2005)

When you’re around an artist all the time, you’re always reminded of what’s beautiful and what’s special, and you can’t forget it. -Jessie Mann (Aperture, No. 162, Winter 2001)

I think what makes Mom different is that she can look at the same object that I would consider pretty commonplace and ordinary, but she’ll make a print of it and suddenly I’ll see the beauty of it. -Virginia Mann (What Remains, 2005)

When Immediate Family was published in 1992, Sally assumed it would be greeted with moderate acclaim just like her previous work, At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women (1988).

Sally Mann - At Twelve (c1984)

Sally Mann – At Twelve (c1984)

The family was not prepared for the explosive sales and the notoriety that came. Listening to the detractors, one might come away with the impression that Sally published the work without regard to the feelings and reputations of her family, but this was far from the truth. The children were consulted about their favorites and which images they objected to. Never was nudity at issue and Larry mediated to make sure the children were not just trying to please their mother. For example, Emmett vetoed an image (Emmett Asleep, 1985) because, at the time, he was pretending to be Bugs Bunny and was wearing white stockings on his arms. Given his age, he was concerned about looking like a dork. Another candid image was of Virginia entitled Pissing in the Wind. Now that they are grown up, they can appreciate these images for what they are, candid moments of family life and these two examples were reprinted in Hold Still. Sometimes Sally censored herself as in The Bent Ear. With Jessie’s thin figure and the strain of waiting for the camera to be set up, Sally thought the picture made her look like a torture victim and was simply too painful to look at.

Sally Mann - The Bent Ear (1989)

Sally Mann – The Bent Ear (1989)

When the letters came in, Sally was surprised at the range of comments. In her characteristic fastidiousness, she sorted them into For, Against and What the Fuck? Although a sense of humor was undoubtedly helpful, the one ray of light was that more than half the letters were positive. It is tempting for visually literate people to write off any negative comments as narrow-minded and not worthy of acknowledgment. Whatever the interpretation, what was happening was a kind of culture clash. Nudity seems to be a natural mode of expression for the liberal-minded proponents of counterculture; and just as there are clothing-optional parks and beaches, there are bound to be many households that observe this custom as well.

The real breakthrough in Hold Still is that Sally makes the context of the land paramount in the interpretation of the pictures. Within this context, these images make perfect sense and without it, they seem bizarre at first glance. The land that the Manns owned was a secluded plot surrounded, unusually, on three sides by the Maury River. Even in the most difficult of times, the family felt safe there away from the madness and ridicule of society—without radios, without television and without computers.

How natural was it in that situation, to allow our children to run naked? Or, put another way, how bizarre would it have been to insist on bathing suits for their river play, which began after breakfast and often continued long after dark, when all three would would dive like sleek otters for glow sticks thrown in the pool under the still-warm cliffs? -Sally Mann (Hold Still, 2015)

For the most part, Sally would avoid looking at the almost endless barrage of reviews. She was an artist, after all, and would not want her art to be tainted by the influx of public opinion. But occasionally, something would come across her radar and one review in particular was devastating in its thoughtlessness and self-righteousness. It was an editorial by Raymond Sokolov, a food critic of all things, published in the Wall Street Journal in February 1991. Ostensibly about government funding of the arts, it took the opportunity to ridicule and mutilate an image published on the cover of the Fall 1990 issue (No. 121) of Aperture. Virginia happened to see it and was very upset about being “crossed out”. For a time, she became extremely self-conscious about her body and even wanted to wear shorts and a shirt in the bathtub the following night. In an attempt at a kind of psychotherapy, a photo shoot was conducted to make a light-hearted mockery of the censorship.

Virginia at 4 (1989) ; Sokolov Article, Wall Street Journal (1991); Virginia's Letter to the Editor (1991)

Virginia at 4 (1989) ; Sokolov Article, Wall Street Journal (1991); Virginia’s Letter to the Editor (1991)

Sally Mann - (Untitled) (1991)

Sally Mann – (Untitled) (1991)

To Sally, her family photographs were partly therapeutic. She would take every mishap and exaggerate it into a worst-case scenario to help alleviate her own anxieties about motherhood and as a kind of sympathetic magic to prevent the worst from actually happening. Whether this actually worked is a matter of perspective. Both Jessie and Emmett are only alive today because of stokes of good fortune, Jessie having been born premature and in guarded condition for an extended period and Emmett surviving a car impact that ought to have killed him.

Sally Mann - Jessie's Cut (1985)

Sally Mann – Jessie’s Cut (1985)

As statistics will bear out, whenever there is a large group of people, a tiny percent are bound to be weirdos. Two particular individuals stand out in Sally’s memory and their tales are told in the book. A few years into their marriage, Larry’s mother, who lived in Connecticut, murdered her husband and then killed herself. Because the couple was respected in the community, the police did not really conduct a full investigation and quickly closed the case. Sally fancied she’d investigate further on her own and called the police to request a copy of the case file. Strangely, the police had the file readily at hand. The reason was that they were receiving strange letters from someone in Richmond with fanciful suggestions of foul play. It turned out to be the mother of a disgruntled artist, envious of Sally’s fame. The other was a man who became love-sick for the Mann children. He would track down family members, neighbors and institutions for any scrap of information about them such as birth certificates, school events and grades. The FBI became involved but informed the family that since this man did not make any threats and had not trespassed onto the property, nothing could be done. The family decided not to go public with this information until now based on the notion that they should not dignify the efforts of this man. Ironically, in their diligence to keep a wary eye out, this man came up in family conversations more often than blood kin. In a sense, he got his most fervent wish as his specter was a constant presence in the house.

Perhaps the most hurtful type of negative criticism was that Sally was a bad mother. This put her in an intractable position as no mother is perfect, but with the public scrutiny, every little thing would be interpreted as some shortcoming. As mentioned before, mother and children are all strong-willed people and there were the usual conflicts as is bound to happen in any family. Sally was apparently not physically affectionate with her children and so there are signs that they sought other forms of comfort. Jessie, for example, developed a drinking problem which she has been managing. After reflection, the children now recognize that their mother expressed her love through her art and gifted them with a sense of their beauty. For this reason, each of the children are consistently very protective of their mother and defend her as necessary. And Sally has her regrets as well, like the time Jessie refused to eat her flounder and was made to sit there all night until she finished it.

Sally Mann - (Untitled) (c1986)

Sally Mann – (Untitled) (c1986)

Fame is a two-edged sword, but it would be unfair to blame its negative effect on an artist who could never have anticipated it. She reasonably assumed that quality work would eventually get recognized by cultured people—but slowly. Sally’s notoriety sometimes interfered with schoolyard relationships because other kids would tease them or other parents objected to their mother’s work. With this kind of fame, what room is there for the children to find their own place in the world? Once Emmett and Jessie were in college, they started talking to each other about their childhood in a kind of exclusive support group; who else would understand their experiences? And should they parlay their mother’s fame to their own benefit? Another effect of all this attention is that one can get used to it. In the film What Remains, Jessie talks about being a kind of modeling junkie. Whenever someone wanted to do a photo shoot of her, she just couldn’t say no. On the other hand, Virginia, being much younger, had a slightly different perspective, hoping simply to fit in and get on with her life.

All the while, in the background of all this drama, was the land. One can see Sally’s interest in the family photographs wane as the children became smaller and smaller in the background of these timeless landscapes.

Sally Mann - Sempervirens "Stricta" (1995)

Sally Mann – Sempervirens “Stricta” (1995)

A theme that permeates Sally’s retrospective is death. She learned that her father collected art that featured portrayals of death and analyzing Southern culture, Sally feels there is always an undercurrent of death, as though it were a familiar companion. This is an understandable reflection of all the blood shed on battlefields and the brutal use of Africans and their descendants in the building of the South.

There were two events in Sally’s life that precipitated two of her projects. The first was the death of one of her beloved greyhounds, Eva. She could not bear to bury her and so, over time, she studied her pet’s decomposing remains. Even the smallest fragment of bone seemed to evoke memories of Eva. She became fascinated about what happens to bodies when they decay and was given permission to photograph bodies at a facility where they study decaying bodies in the open. The results of her work appeared in the book, What Remains (2003). The other event was the killing of an escaped convict on the family compound. When the authorities finally cleared out, she stared at that place contemplating the dichotomy of death and renewal. While the land indiscriminately recycles, the memories of death linger in the writings and minds of human beings. This prompted a visit to the great battlefields of the South to capture this sentiment on film, culminating in the book Deep South (2005). And as if there were not already enough presence of decay in Sally’s life, Larry was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy in which the muscles waste away. Fortunately, Larry had a well-developed physique to start with so it would take longer for the condition to be debilitating. For most men, this kind of indignity would cause him to hide his disease, but instead Larry has generously allowed Sally to photograph him and his condition as time passes in a project calls ‘Proud Flesh’.

Another expression of Sally’s fascination with the past is that she processes her own negatives and has practiced a number of antiquarian techniques. She likes the feel of handling the materials, much as Julia Margaret Cameron did. Also like Cameron, she welcomes the serendipitous flaws that are rejected in a professional process: dust getting on the plate or laminate peeling on the negative in just the right place. Using older techniques also means longer exposure times and in her series, ‘Faces’, she asked her grown up children to hold still for various 3-minute exposures. The flaw in this image gives the impression of soapy tears.

Sally Mann - Faces No. 10 (2004)

Sally Mann – Faces No. 10 (2004)

A manifestation of the superficiality of society is that if a gallery can’t make money on art, they aren’t interested. Sally was disheartened that no New York gallery would exhibit ‘Faces’ and she later found an excellent venue in Washington DC which made it possible for friends and neighbors to view it. This project also became a kind of personal discipline. Sally admits to being a nervous and frenetic person by nature and so has challenged herself to produce self-portraits that require her to hold still for 6 minutes while she exposes the plate.  This development is also a result of the fact that her children are no longer on hand to model

Steven Cantor - What Remains (2005) (2)

Steven Cantor – What Remains (2005) (2)

Having both Southern and Yankee blood, Sally was exposed to the best and worst of both cultures. She embraced the philosophy behind the Civil Rights movement, but she herself was raised by a black woman she knew as Gee-Gee. The day-to-day management of the household was done by this woman and she made sure Sally was fed, dressed and ready for school. Sally’s contemplation of the role of black people in the South made her wonder about this alien lifestyle and upbringing—so utterly different from her own. In an effort to explore this “otherness”, she recently embarked on a project to photograph the bodies of black men. To bring out the truth in her subjects, she keeps things as anonymous as possible. She does not ask them about their lives and she does not share any particulars about herself except what she requires of them. After about an hour, they part company.

From time to time, Sally—sometimes with the kids—would review the family photographs. She shares an interesting theory about the interplay of memory and photography. Not really remembering her own childhood, she has relied on photographs and other artifacts to reveal her own past. It is as though the ability to record things photographically diminishes our capacity to remember. Historians have noted something similar after the invention of mechanical printing and the development of popular literacy centuries ago. In her Aperture interview, Jessie expressed a sense of disembodiment about her old pictures, a feeling that they are not really of her. This makes some sense since we are not the same people we were as children and here the images are not just family snapshots, but partly constructions from their mother’s imagination. An anecdote about Jessie takes place when she was dressing for an exhibition of the the family pictures. She realized that a sleeveless top she was considering would expose her chest if she raised her arms and so she rejected the garment. A friend remarked how odd it was that she should be concerned since there would be numerous photos showing her chest at the show. Then Jessie responded, “Yes, but that is not my chest. Those are photographs.” Children can indeed distinguish between the production of an image and the real thing.

Sally Mann - White Skates (1990)

Sally Mann – White Skates (1990)

Sally Mann - Holding the Weasel (1989)

Sally Mann – Holding the Weasel (1989)

Many today might feel that Sally Mann and her family have been vindicated. They rode the rough waters of celebrity and controversy, the adult children continue to make their way in life and Sally is still pursuing her art. But one unrecognized effect of the thoughtless rhetoric has been that many good family photos have still not reached the public. This subject was discussed in What Remains, but whenever the family mulled over the possibility of another book or exhibition, there was the inevitability of answering the same tiresome questions and they became discouraged. Perhaps someday we will see them when our society respects real artists and galleries regard them as more than just an opportunity to make money.

A favorite image of mine is Steven Cantor’s parting shot in Blood Ties. In it, Virginia is saying that she wishes her mother would take a picture of her right now.

Steven Cantor - Blood Ties (1994) (3)

Steven Cantor – Blood Ties (1994) (3)

Thank you Virginia, Jessie, Emmett, Larry and Sally for your courage, generosity and irrepressible human spirit.  -Ron

Sally Mann photography (official site): some of the unseen family photographs may be coming to light here.

Jessie Mann (official site)

Pigtails posted a this delightfully irreverent image a while back.

An excellent collection of reproductions of Sally Mann’s work were published in a Christie’s catalog for an auction held on October 7, 2009 and copies have been sold on the secondary market.

I have done my best to give a good overview of this artist, with an emphasis on the children, but Mann’s work is such a linchpin to many issues regarding art, child rearing, nudity, psychology, social justice, commerce and privacy that these will have to be discussed in a supplement post later.

[160108] A colleague has informed me of a scholarly article about the Mann photographs entitled “Public/Private Tensions in the Photography of Sally Mann” by Sarah Parsons.  It is worth a look for anyone interested in the work of this artist and how it has affected the family dynamic. -Ron

The Girls of Summer, Pt. 1

Well, it’s high summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means young girls are out playing in the water, on the beach, or in the yard.  In some parts of the world they are even doing so (gasp!) partially or fully nude.  Others are wearing swimsuits or thin summer outfits.  The beauty and innocence of a child frolicking under a blazing summer sun, free of guilt and bodily shame, is a sight we could all use more of, frankly.  And so, in honor of those children who are out there enjoying the rays this summer, here is the first in a three-part series featuring little girls doing precisely that, all perfectly captured by an assortment of painters and photographers from around the world.  So look at these images and smile, because someday, if the morality thugs and environment polluters continue to have their way, it may be a rare thing to behold.

The first image is in honor of the holiday Americans just celebrated, the Fourth of July.  I don’t recall where I obtained this image, and a search of the artist’s name reveals nothing.  It may have been mislabeled at the site I got it from; that kind of thing happens a lot on the internet, unfortunately.  I also wish it was a wee bit larger, but this will have to suffice.  I intended to post this on the Fourth but didn’t get it out in time.

Carol Lauren - (Title Unknown)

Carol Lauren – (Title Unknown)

The next image is from Indian journalist and photographer Sebin Abraham Jacob, who goes by Sebinaj on DeviantArt.  It’s called Rejoice, and I can’t imagine a better title.  I love the texture of the stone walkway behind the girl and how nicely it contrasts with her softness.  I also love her fancy shoes, which seem almost out of place and slightly too large for her feet.

Sebinaj - Rejoice

Sebin Abraham Jacob – Rejoice

DeviantArt: Sebinaj

Karl Jóhann Jónsson is an Icelandic painter, primarily of portraits.  I really like the unique perspective on this little girl, Emilia.  There are other paintings of the same girl, whom I presume is his daughter, on his site, so take a look around.

Karl Jóhann Jónsson - Emilía í sundi

Karl Jóhann Jónsson – Emilía í sundi

Karl Jóhann: Portrett og fleira (official site)

These next two pieces are actually English travel posters from early to mid-20th century.  The first is for Burnam-on-Sea, a coastal town in Somerset, England.  At first, all I was able to glean from the web on the artist was that his last name is Durmon.  It looks to be from about the 1940s.  If anyone else can provide more information here, it will be greatly appreciated.  Although there is no text provided, the second image is a poster for another English coastal town, Clacton-on-Sea, dating from 1953, with art by Mervyn Scarf.  I’ve included these for the express reason that they both demonstrate that it wasn’t that long ago when the English followed the general European trend for little girls’ bathing costumes.  As you can see in both examples, the little girls are topless.  There are other examples out there showing the same, but these two should suffice.

Durmon - Burnham-on-Sea (poster)

Alan Durman – Burnham-on-Sea (poster)

Alan Durman (1905-1963) did a number of idyllic pieces that appeared on posters and examples are sold at auction from time to time.

Mervyn Scarf - Clacton-on-Sea (poster) (1953)

Mervyn Scarf – Clacton-on-Sea (poster) (1953)

This next photograph is by Sally Mann.  Although I have a couple of Mann’s books, this image was actually taken from a small compilation volume I have called Love and Desire.  That is, of course, Mann’s daughter Jessie striking the pose on what appears to be a boogie board of some sort.  I have never seen this image in any other source, so I was quite happy to discover the book had a Mann photo in it.

Sally Mann - Venus Ignored (1992)

Sally Mann – Venus Ignored (1992)

Sally Mann (official site)

This image is by the painter Rafael Concilio and dates from 2001.  That’s really all I can tell you.

A few of this artist’s paintings can be found here.

Rafael Concilio - A Toy Ship (2001)

Rafael Concilio – A Toy Ship (2001)

Here is a photograph by Oleg Itkin.  I do not recall where I pulled this from, probably a Russian photography site.  Such sites were a goldmine of beautiful images of children back in the early ’00s, and I discovered a lot of fantastic new photographers this way.  This piece reminds me a lot of the work of Jock Sturges in its simplicity.

Oleg Itkin - Vintage

Oleg Itkin – Vintage

And speaking of Russian photographers, one of the best is Dolphine (a.k.a. d’elf), who mostly shoots images of little girls (and occasionally little boys) doing gymnastics.  If you are interested in child gymnastics, you will find more images than you could ever want at Dolphine’s website.  Be sure to check the links at the bottom of her page for more beautiful work.  Here are two pieces from Dolphine.

Dolphine - Small Pantheon

Dolphine – Small Pantheon

Dolphine - Summer 2

Dolphine – Summer 2

d’elf (official site)

This next one is somewhat different from the theme of this post, but I quite like it and wanted to include it anyway.  It is a painting by Jimmy Lawlor called, appropriately enough, The Height of Summer.  Lawlor has several lovely surrealist/fantasy paintings featuring children, so don’t forget to peruse his site!

Jimmy Lawlor - The Height of Summer

Jimmy Lawlor – The Height of Summer

Jimmy Lawlor (official site)

Wai Ming is an Asian painter of some renown, noted for his beautiful and sensitive portraits of children, especially girls.  Here is a perfect example.

Wai Ming - The Lovely Summer

Wai Ming – The Lovely Summer

Wai Ming (official site)

Nikolai Filippov is yet another Russian photographer who tends to focus his camera on the young girl, though his specialty is ballet.  This image of a nude boy and girl walking down the beach is all kinds of charming.

There is a large collection (23 pages worth) of his work here.  However, the nude images have a warning and one would presumably need to establish an account to view those.  A number of images can be found here as well along with some biographical information.

Nikolai Filippov - Game Beside the Sea II (1972)

Nikolai Filippov – Game Beside the Sea II (1972)

And now we move on to Russian painters.  Anna Lebedevna (not to be confused with Anna Ostroumova-Lebedevna) is a contemporary academic painter, and that’s about all I know of her.  She doesn’t seem to have much of a presence online, unfortunately.

Anna Lebedeva - Summer (1999)

Anna Lebedeva – Summer (1999)

Svitlana Galdetska is a contemporary Ukrainian painter who specializes in paintings of her own daughter.  This image is one of several lovely ‘girl on beach’ images from her series Space Around Me.

Svitlana Galdetska - My Summer

Svitlana Galdetska – My Summer

Svitlana Galdetska (official site)

Contemporary photographer Frank H. Jump mostly focuses on vintage and decaying signs and murals, but here he trains his camera on an adorable little girl at the beach.

Frank H. Jump - Girl on Beach, Ft. Tilden, Queens (2002)

Frank H. Jump – Girl on Beach, Ft. Tilden, Queens (2002)

Fading Ad Campaign (official site)

I don’t know the photographer of this next image, but it is a page taken from the magazine Marie Claire Italia.  I do know that the adult woman in the image is French actress and model Laetitia Casta.

(Photographer Unknown) - Marie Claire Italia, June, 1995

(Photographer Unknown) – Marie Claire Italia, June, 1995

Stanley Goldstein is a modern painter with a photo-realistic style.  There are some beach and other outdoor images at his site that could’ve easily fit here, but I preferred this painting of children frolicking in a water fountain.

Stanley Goldstein - Fountain I (2008)

Stanley Goldstein – Fountain I (2008)

Stanley Goldstein (official site)

Here’s an unusual photo by Luiz Cavalcante, whose work I have featured here before.  This little girl looks like she’s having a blast, doesn’t she?

Luiz Cavalcante - Little Jumping Girl

Luiz Cavalcante – Little Jumping Girl

Our final piece is by Shannon Richardson.  I’ve posted this once before, but I want to post it again.  Ah, what was better when you were a kid than playing outside while eating ice cream, eh?

Shannon Richardson - Grass Skirts

Shannon Richardson – Grass Skirts

That’s it for this batch.  Stay cool out there, people.

Shannon Richardson (official site)

Maiden Voyages: May 2015

This post was originally published on April 19th because Pip and I felt that the Sally Mann news was timely and should be announced right away.  I have added a couple more items and so this now constitutes our official May Maiden Voyages post.

Sally Mann Speaks: I am planning a substantial post on Sally Mann this summer. Many readers have seen a number of her images involving her three children. However, few people truly appreciate the depth of this artist. When I first saw the documentary What Remains, that is when I officially fell in love with this generous, thoughtful and sophisticated soul. Most people are also familiar with the small-minded commentary she has received for exposing her children in this way or the superficial and low-minded comments about the children’s physical attributes. A new development—to the general public, anyway—is that at least one disturbing “fan” has been obsessed with the family and pestered friends and neighbors for small personal details about the children’s lives. The frustrating thing about law enforcement is that in this kind of domestic terrorism, its hands are tied while the federal government can throw caution to the wind when pursuing its enemies in the name of national defense. Mann was fortunate to find one compassionate agent in the FBI who tried to advise her on how to handle this interloper, who never went so far as to actually step onto the property. This latest revelation comes from The New York Times Magazine article based on excerpts from a book, Hold Still: A Memoir With Photographs, being released in the coming month. Anyone interested in Mann’s story or in the complexities of children exposed to public scrutiny are encouraged to read it. Once I have assimilated this new information, Pigtails will be featuring this artist in a more thorough post. So many of Sally Mann’s decisions and experiences are relevant to the issues that Pigtails in Paint tries to address. For starters, Pip and I wanted to emphasize that obsessive and aggressive behavior of this kind is never acceptable, even when there was no malevolent intent. Mann has been very generous in sharing these intimate family moments and she, her husband and children deserved a safe place to develop and express their own humanity.

The Secret Lives of Girls: Pip—in comments and personal correspondence—has mentioned an excellent book that I have finally gotten around to. I dare say it should be required reading for any girl, woman or man who truly respects girls and women. It is called The Secret Lives of Girls by Sharon Lamb. Many authors have tried to deal with the subject of aggression and sexuality before, but Lamb so skillfully brings out the intricacies of the interaction of these two qualities and dispels myths about what is “normal”. I was able to find it in my local library, so it should be readily available to most of our readers who live in English-speaking countries. I have maintained for a long time that although children are sexual creatures, it is not of the same order as adult sexuality and any arguments promoting sexual interaction with adults are tenuous at best. Sexuality is a sensitive subject and every society has rules of proper conduct. What I found illuminating is that girls take the initiative to find ways of educating themselves so long as they do not find themselves in families or societies that are too oppressive. This plays right into gender standards—both male and female—that is causing so much of the psychic distress right now.

Pip’s Gallery: I suggested to Pip that since some of his art will be appearing on Pigtails from time to time, he should establish a gallery page so readers can examine the range of his art.  I have a few of his pieces, so in due course, I will add them.  This is the least we can do in gratitude for him given that he created this popular and flourishing site.

New Young Girl Blog: One of our readers has started his own blog that focuses on the inspirational aspects of the younger girl.  It has a literary/historical bent and broaches deep humanistic issues.  It is called Agapeta: When younger girls awaken hearts and illuminate lives; lovely title, isn’t it?

Facebook Rules: This is a short item and a reality check for internet sites and services that profess to uphold society’s standards while trying to offer maximum personal freedom. The web is supposed to optimize these possibilities and Facebook management is realizing that it is not a simple matter of having a blanket policy about content. You can read more about it here.

Sally Mann’s ‘Three Graces’

I have thus far avoided posting any of Sally Mann’s work because it is so well-known and ubiquitous that it seemed almost unnecessary, as anyone interested in my blog almost certainly has encountered her photographs.  However, I will at some point make a long post with my take on her work.  Until then, I felt the urge to post an image that is unusual for her in a number of ways.  That image is ‘Three Graces.’  For one thing, it not only depicts her two daughters, Jessie and Virginia, but also the artist herself.  All three are nude, grasping hands, and urinating.  That’s right, urinating.  It has long been taboo to feature urination or defecation in art, particularly for females–these acts are considered both extremely intimate and vulgar.  And yet here it is an act of bonding between mother and children (a rather odd one to be sure), and therein lies the paradox.

Mann has pushed boundaries right and left with her photography, and this particular image is in some ways the apotheosis of her artistic perspective because it is controversial on several levels.  Yet voiding our bladders is something we all do every day and have done since birth.  The real reason I think it is so taboo is that peeing is done with the same organs we use for sex, and thus any depiction of children in the midst of urinating is bound to call attention to their sex organs.  As the recent controversy involving sports blogger David Portnoy’s commentary on the size of Tom Brady’s toddler son’s penis makes clear, our society is growing ever more uptight about anything even remotely connecting children with sex, even if it’s done for humorous effect.  This controversy, like the one surrounding the Vogue images of Thylane Blondeau, are beyond absurd to me.  But then, I’m not a paranoid, puritanical twit.  🙂

Anyway, back to the Mann photo.  The artist clearly recognized the taboo nature of pissing, and my impression, given the ironic title of the image, is that she was essentially (even if not doing so consciously) thumbing her nose at all those critics who characterized her work as obscenity or child pornography.  After all, while the picture was taken in 1994, it wasn’t published until a few years later, right in the midst of her popularity and thus also the controversy.  It’s like she and her daughters are pissing on the critics themselves and on traditional/patriarchal notions of femininity, and I respect that.

sally-mann-three-graces-1994

Wikipedia: Sally Mann

Comments:

From Ron on May 20, 2012

I am told that Larry Mann expressed concerns to Sally about photographing her girls peeing (at a North Carolina exhibition). We should also not forget about “The Wet Bed”. Mann even poured cola on the bed to accentuate the shape of the mattress stain!

From Michelle on August 5, 2012

Your analysis is a bit off. You make no mention of the inspiration of this piece: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Graces_(Raphael)
It is not so much about pissing as it is about female empowerment and beauty.

From Pip Starr on August 5, 2011

Yeah, I didn’t mention the inspiration, as I took it for granted that the viewers would know, but I probably shouldn’t have. I agree with your point that the photo is in some sense about female empowerment and beauty, but then much of Mann’s work involving her daughters (and the other young girls she’s photographed) is, so that almost goes without saying. She frequently turns over traditional concepts of beauty with her photos of girls. But I still believe that, at least on some subconscious level if not consciously, that this image is a reaction to the controversy her nude child photos inspired, which was pretty rampant by the time this photo was taken. Having watched the documentary about Mann’s work involving her kids, it’s pretty clear to me that she has always regarded those critics with disapproval, if not outright disdain.

*Michelle’s point is well taken and I admit to having been hung up on the controversial and technical aspects of Mann’s photography.  I can’t count the number of images I have seen where I thought, “Oh, that is this artist’s rendition of ‘The Three Graces’.”  Although an artist’s intention may have had something to do with female “empowerment”—a concept developed by the women’s liberation movement of the past few decades—the original image is a pagan archetype representing the flow of energies in the world and was appropriated more or less by the early Catholic Church in the masculine form of the Holy Trinity—one of the sure indications of a patriarchal state  -Ron (December 31, 2013)

Bare Beach Babies Pt. 3: The Modern Age

The last of our Bare Beach Babies three-parter.  We can’t really have a proper discussion of this without including Jock Sturges, and so we’ll begin with him.  Now, there are simply too many images by Sturges that fit this description to include them all here, so I’ll provide a few examples.  Sturges’s modus operandi is to focus his camera on nudist and naturist girls starting when they are very young and following the blossoming of their bodies from prepubescence, through adolescence, and finally to the young women they become.  His photographs, taken with a large-format camera, have been controversial from the get-go, capturing the changing female body in plain but elegant terms.  That anyone would equate Sturges’s work with pornography seems to speak more about the minds of his critics than it does about his photographs.  Like the girls themselves, these images are holistic and stripped bare–stripped of pretentions, semiotic cues, and the language of modern sexuality.  Unless one equates nudity with sexuality across the board (an odd notion to be sure, because it would mean that any image of a naked child is de facto pornography) if there is any eroticism to be found in these pictures, the fault lies clearly with the viewer rather than the pictures themselves.  Perhaps in the end the real “problem” then is that these pictures force us to confront an uncomfortably reality about ourselves.

jock-sturges-girls-on-the

Jock Sturges – Girls on the Beach, Montalivet, France

jock-sturges-fanny-monta

Jock Sturges – Fanny, Montalivet, France

jock-sturges-misty-dawn

Jock Sturges – (I’m not sure about the title, but I do know the girl in the foreground is Misty Dawn.)

jock-sturges-iris-montal

Jock Sturges – Iris, Montalivet, France (1991)

jock-sturges-11

Jock Sturges – Fanny, Montalivet, France

And a clear admirer and follower of Sturges:

hervc3a9-szydlowski-2006-mo

Hervé Szydlowski – Vetu de nu – 2006, Montalivet (1)

hervc3a9-szydlowski-2006-m2

Hervé Szydlowski – Vetu de nu – 2006, Montalivet (2)

A modern Impressionist:

charles-warren-mundy-litt1

Charles Warren Mundy – Little Girl at the Beach

holger-frohlich-am-atlantik

Holger Frohlich – Am Atlantik

holger-frohlich-am-antlatik

Holger Frohlich – Am Antlatik – Frankreich

jean-marie-drouet-bain-bl

Jean Marie Drouet – Bain bleu

jean-marie-drouet-bain-2

Jean Marie Drouet – Bain bleu brassards jaunes

nils-johan-norenlind-swede

Nils-Johan Norenlind – Title Unknown

andrew-pashis-1

Andrew Pashis – Title Unknown

joseph-sherly-sheppard-nu

Joseph Sherly Sheppard – Nude Beach

mastadont-lady-mary

Mastadont – Lady Mary

paul-roberts-on-the-beach

Paul Roberts – On the Beach

tsur-pelly-naked-bedouin

Tsur Pelly – Naked Bedouin Children Bathing in the Red Sea

sally-mann-punctus-after1

Sally Mann – Punctus (After the Swim)

tierney-gearon-untitled

Tierney Gearon – Untitled (2000)

ilse-de-wit-meisje-aan-ze

Ilse de Wit – Meisje aan zee

zorgy-road-from-the-beach1

Zorgy – Road from the Beach

Wikipedia: Jock Sturges

Amadelio: Jock Sturges interview

Szydlowski

Charles Warren Mundy

Jean Marie Drouet

Photoforum.ru: Andrew Pashis

Joseph Sheppard

Paul Roberts Paintings

Linkedin: Tsur Pelly

Wikipedia: Sally Mann

Tierney Gearon

Wikipedia: Tierney Gearon