Southern Focus

Oak Hill Baptist 01:01

Sally Mann captures a historic church with her lens

Photo: Sally Mann, Gelatin silver print, 2008-16 series

Exploring the gradients of gray that exist between black and white, shadow and light, Sally Mann crafts photographs that appear both ethereal and weighty. Each image offers depths to plumb: her technical skill and artistic instinct, her subjects and their stories, and the role that her home in Virginia plays in her approach. The 125-plus photographs that compose her new exhibition, Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings, which opens March 4 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., focus on her relationship with the South. Mann captured this historic African American church, built in the late nineteenth century on a country lane outside of Newport, Virginia, using a large-format camera, and printed it on expired gelatin silver paper. “Every so often, the remaining parishioners paint the front and road-facing side in an effort to keep up appearances,” Mann says, “while the back, less visible from the road, remains unpainted and has begun to deteriorate. Something about its plucky resilience touches me.”