Sarah Meister: What wise words do you have for young photographers today?
Sally Mann: I think first of all that you should work rather than think. You can’t think your way into a body of work. You have to do the work. And a sort of first cousin to that is that you can’t wait for inspiration to come and and find you. There’s that great Picasso quote, “if inspiration ever came I think she’d find me working.” You know it isn’t going to happen that way, it doesn’t come like a bolt out of blue. Just get the damn work done and do it and do it and do it.
I think the fourth (sic) thing I would say to her students is that, and this is hard to do if they’re teenagers, but I think they should be organized and ordinary in their life and this is a direct quote from Flo bear (sic) who said be organized and ordinary so that your work can be outrageous and original. What I’m getting at is like don’t spend your time like going to tattoo parlors or doing yourself all up or don’t waste your time on the superficiality. Get in there, get your camera together, get your work together and and do it. You don’t have to show people that you’re an artist. This is what I keep seeing is like artists wanting everyone to know they’re artists.
The above is my takeaway from the near hour-long, recorded Q&A session after cleaning up the automatically generated transcript. Needless-to-say “Flo bear” is Flaubert.
The ebb and flow between Sarah Meister, photography curator at MoMA, and Sally Mann, photographer and writer, was very zen and spontaneous, flowing from their discussion of the current MoMA exhibition of Dorothea Lange, Words & Pictures, where you can watch the full interview, to Mann’s insights on photography and being a photographer. At times it was a challenge to follow.
One thing, however, rang out loud and clear: Just get the damn work done and do it and do it and do it.