Sally Mann’s Untitled (Little House): dark shadows frozen in time

In the shadows …

This shot of a tiny rotting dwelling, its windows and doors boarded up, the paint peeling like burnt skin, is from American photographer Sally Mann’s 1998 series Deep South. Dark shadows gather at the edges, framing the scene in an ominous smoky oval.

Echo location …

Mann asks us to consider what ghosts of the past are tangible in place; the layers of history that might be frozen for a moment in a photograph. This haunted house is in a region marred by slavery and civil war. Certainly, neglect and poverty have left their mark here.

Back from the dead …

Her photos themselves summon the medium’s long-dead. Since the 90s she has used equipment favoured by 19th-century civil war photographers – huge old cameras whose images are developed using a wet collodian plate process.

Her dark materials …

Ghost stories and romantic poetry fuel Mann’s imagination. Her references include Poe, Wordsworth and Faulkner. Surely, the south has never looked so gothic.

Included in American Pastoral, Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, WC1, to 14 March


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