Thursday, April 3, 2008

Candy Cigarette

Sally Mann captured many images with the intention to evoke different interpretations for each of her photographs. Candy Cigarette, a photograph of Mann’s two daughters and son, portrays the identity of each child through their body language. In this photograph her children’s personalities are strongly highlighted with the use of color and posture, as well as their use of props. The children each seem to be at a different stage in their lives and their attitude towards their individual persona is easily identified.

Looking at this photograph, we are immediately engrossed to the image of a juvenile girl in a white dress holding a cigarette. Judging from her posture and the way she is holding the cigarette, we perceive a sense of maturity and adulthood. Her right hand folded across her chest gives the viewer the impression that she is a diffident and a reserved young female. On the contrary, her left hand, which is holding the cigarette, depicts her as arrogant and imperious. Although her body language is recognized as that of a woman, it is evident that she is just a young girl. The black watch on her right wrist can account for the distortion between her appearance and her age. Time for her seems to be an issue that’s affecting her identity. Her small body and innocent eyes reveal her young age. Unfortunately, her young age is nothing of which is proud of. Her messy hair and pompous posture unmask her rush to grow up, be independent, and fit her own definition of a mature woman. Although it is evident that she is not the eldest amongst her siblings, her sophisticated body posture and advanced mentality suggests otherwise.

Far off in the distance a male figure appears on walking stilts. Although he appears to be the eldest in the photo because of his larger body structure, his mental position lies between his two sisters. He is unstable even though he can identify with both of his sibling’s attitudes. His white shirt illustrates his connection with his “oldest” sister’s point of view. He too is desperate to grow up, but his transition into adulthood is still debatable His dark shorts, which in color are similar to his younger sister’s dress, evoke a link between the two siblings. The short trousers may represent the memories of his life as a smaller, younger person, that he is still holding on to. His younger sisters, along with his short trousers, provide him with the notion of infancy making it harder for him to find a balance. Even though the tall stilts supply him with a feeling of superiority and authority, he is still tottering on the line between childhood and manhood. Unwilling to decide between the two extremes, he is walking into the darkness, approaching the light emerging through the trees, hoping for stability.

Unlike her brother, but very much like her older sister, the little girl in the gray knows exactly what she wants. The white lace on the little girl’s dress, which is a smaller version of the lace on her sister’s dress, represents the bit of similarity between the two females. The “oldest” girl wants to be a mature woman, while the youngest girl wants to enjoy her childhood. Although this connection is inferred, the youngest girl shows disapproval of her older sister’s doings and beliefs by facing the opposite direction. Her up held messy ponytail represents her will to run around and play infantile games. Her loose curls manifest her inattentive attitude towards her looks. She has not yet reached the age at which her appearance is of high importance; which can account as one of the differences between her and her older sister. The few natural highlights in her hair suggest that even though she is just a little girl, the roots of her personality are already sprouting. She positions her arms in such a way as to convey a sense of innocent arrogance in her rising character. Her slight inclination to her right indicates her on going momentum to enjoy her childhood while developing her persona.

As a mother and photographer, Sally Mann captures her children’s characters as well as her own maternal emotions She seems to be aware of the maturity level of her “oldest” daughter and through this photograph; Mann shows her acceptance towards her daughter’s coming of age. She trusts that her daughter will grow up to be a responsible young lady, and shows her certainty by allowing her to hold a cigarette in her photo. Mann also shows her awareness of her boy’s instability by having him walk on stilts. She realizes that he is just going through a phase and that he will eventually find his true self as a young adult. Mann expresses the up coming stability of her boy by having him walk in the direction of the light emerging from the trees. Finally, Sally Mann shows her satisfaction with her youngest daughter by letting her be who she is. Her casual attitude and her developing character give her mother something to look forward to. The path on which Mann’s children are standing on symbolizes their long lives ahead of them. She feels confident that each of her children will grow up and have prosperous lives. But the surrounding forest indicates her constant protection over them. Even though they are developing, as their mother, she is alert in the background ready to keep them on the right path.