When I’d found out that Sally Mann would be doing a lecture at DePaul here in Chicago, I had a mixture of feelings. All good, of course. I was excited, anxious, nauseous, and not gonna lie- a bit star-struck at the idea that I would get to be in the same room with her and hear her speak. This was last night. I showed up at DePaul almost 3 hours early, and as expected, I was the first one there. It was my mission to be front row and center.
Sally read from her new book as well as shared images from her Body Farm series. My favorite part though, was at the end of the night. They brought out two comfortable chairs center stage, a small coffee table and some bottles of water with cups. The gentleman running the show sat in one of chairs, then Sally took the other, laughing nervously and apologizing profusely for absolutely nothing. And then, in a James Lipton Inside the Actors Studio-style interview, the questions and discussion commenced. She was nervous, and awkward, and I loved everything about it, because she was human. She talked about her life growing up, how mortality was always present. She talked about her husband. How selfless he was in his act of letting her photograph his body and what muscular dystrophy did to it, for her Proud Flesh series. How she almost teared up talking about how much he loved her enough to expose himself like that. She talked about how photography IS exploitation. She talked about how she would rather photograph inside an airport bathroom over Versailles. How she works better within limitations.
Afterwards, all I could muster up to say to her was, “Thank you. Just thank you. You are incredible.”