Childhood Purity vs. Knowledge of Maturity: Review of Photograph Virginia at 6 by Sally Mann

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Sally Mann has a gift of pushing buttons—critics and random people alike. Whether those buttons ignite a flame of hate or generate a spark of fascination, a strong reaction is guaranteed. Mann, once again, delivers a thought-provoking piece with Virginia at 6, where she effectively manages lines, value and contrast to illustrate a stimulating battle between childhood purity and the vanity and knowledge that comes with maturity.
In Virginia at 6, Virginia, the child, poses nude with her arms comfortably shaped in a triangle over her head, body determinedly arched. She faces toward the viewer’s left, but her eyes stare directly at the camera. She gives a relaxed, mysterious grin to the camera. In Virginia’s background, a body of water lies adjacent to the shore on which she stands. The water displays the darkest value in the photograph; an exception to this occurs in an area outlining the child’s curvaceous torso and hips. Her wavy, wet hair branches along her left ribcage in waves emulating the ripples of the water behind her. Her body also features drops of water here and there, as if she just came out from a swim
After looking at the photograph, it is evident that the lines in Virginia at 6 are of great importance to understanding what the photograph. Pulsating lines from Virginia’s wavy hair are in harmony with the ripples in the water behind her. This connection brings the child to a sense of peace with her organic environment. Her uncovered body is the same as it was immediately after her birth, and thus maintaining a sense of pure, sinless spirit.
Contrary to the previous theme, the wavy lines from Virginia’s hair also have a wicked side. Those lines are abnormal, as they seem to be extraordinarily undulating, almost like ...

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...rayed as being seamlessly supernatural, yet relatable, virtuous, yet wicked, and robust, yet tender.
However, there is more to the photograph than sheer picturesque value. Sally Mann’s Virginia at 6 also expresses an intricate point in human life—the transformations, physical and mental, that come with growing up. This connection established by Mann is what really enchants viewers. She mixes lines, value and contrasting characteristics, especially, to mesmerize the viewer with this universally bewildering stage for human beings,
If anything is certain, it is Mann’s knack of sparking fear and disturbance for many. Nevertheless, the power of her photographs is irrefutable. Through the use of the eccentric, the sensory and the concrete, she lends us an understanding into the real meaning of youth, and enquires where the line between children and adults begins to blur.

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