Last weekend I read photographer Sally Mann’s new memoir Hold Still, in which she unpacks the boxes of her ancestors’ photographs, letters, journals, and relicts and turns them into stories, into her story, borne from and braided with their lives and their places. Place is central to Mann, who lives on a farm along the Maury River in Virginia, and writes about the importance of life on the river, on her isolated farm, and in the conflicted contemporary South, and each of those is a subject of her photographs. If place is one locus for Mann, then memory, in both her photographs and memoir, is the second locus, but one without a frame, for every memory recalled, she tells us, is a memory altered and altered again at its next recall. “[T]he exercise of our memory,” Mann writes, “does not bring us closer to the past but draws us farther away.” And photographs lie in their hold of memory.
I had a wonderful time with the book.