What I liked most about Hold Still is that Sally Mann is refreshingly forthright, even provocative, but thoughtfully so, a combination that I didn’t realize I was missing. Mann eloquently portrays in words and pictures the complicated and nuanced history that her (our) family, her (our) South, her (our) country have evolved through. It sounds cliché to describe Hold Still’s exploration of the inextricability of opposing concepts: darkness and light, art and life, history and the present, but this memoir is so patently not cliché. It is simply very good.
The acclaimed photographer focuses her attention on her family and their past. Her skill with the camera is matched with her use of language. She grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and moved back there with her husband after attending schools in New England and she skillfully expresses feelings about her southern roots unflinchingly. Her favorite photographic subjects have been her three children and the controversy that sprang from pictures of them playing naked in the river which runs through their land brought a notoriety that Mann still has. Her views on art, family, and heritage are discussed in a way that doesn’t dismiss her detractors but seeks a common point where we can all view these subjects in a humane and thoughtful way. The book is full of photographs, Mann’s and others’, and I’d love an afternoon in the shade by the river for her to explain her vision in each of them.— Sydne, Atlanta