** Hold Still by Sally Mann


Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs is the memoir of the famous photographer, with many illustrations including her own photographs, of course, and some of the controversial ones to boot, but also report cards, letters, and notes from the many boxes in her attic, where she starts her narrative.

As usual, I particularly enjoyed the stories of her family and her personal life — stories of the tumultuous affairs and divorces in her mother’s family, dating back generations, of her slave-owning paternal family, of her own wild adolescence, and of her husband’s financially privileged but highly disturbed parents.

She also discusses the controversy about the pictures she took of her children, which shocked because they contain quite a bit of nudity, but what made me more uncomfortable was thinking about how many times they must have been asked to “hold still”, as the title states, when they must have wanted to do their own thing. And the children’s photographs are not, by far, the most disturbing ones in the book, the honor going to a series shot at the University of Tennessee’s Anthropological Research Facility, known as the Body Farm, where scientists conduct forensics research on decay. Quite a spectacle.

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