American photographer Sally Mann gained wide recognition and a devoted fan base in the 1980s, as well as stirring up some controversy, with the publication of provocative black-and-white portraits of her family, especially her young children. Seen by some as shocking for their hint of feral eroticism, and by others as revolutionary in their iconic intimacy, it is impossible to overstate their impact.
But as this epic 40-year career survey demonstrates, there was always more to the story. Lost in arguments about those works was the fact that the pictures were always also landscapes — emotional studies of Mann's and humanity's occupation of the natural world, especially the American South, where she was and is from. This show rectifies that perceived imbalance, as her portraits can be seen in the continuum of architecture studies, landscapes that bore witness to history and, finally, mortality itself.
The exhibition is on view through Feb. 10, and a free 15-minute spotlight tour offers the perfect introduction daily at 2:45 p.m..
The Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood; (310) 440-7300, getty.edu; talk 2:45 p.m. daily; through Feb. 10; free (parking $15).