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In candid photographs, Sally Mann strove to capture the unique, developing personalities of her young children. In summer, the family lived at an isolated farm on the Maury River in Virginia. The children spent much of their time without clothes, playing in the water and yard, as their mother had done before them. She kept her camera on its tripod prepared for compelling moments. When a selection of Mann’s photographs appeared in book Immediate Family in 1992, most viewers were beguiled by the images of carefree innocence. Some were offended by the nudity. In this image, Virginia Mann stands with her bicycle amid rows of compressed, or “Stricta” trunks of evergreen cypresses. The Latin name of this tree, sempervirens means “always flourishing,” a fitting description of a thin and swift girl and her bike. By contrast, the twisted, soaring trees however attest their age, and evoke the long-forgotten Southerners who planted them.
from Touchstones of the Twentieth Century: A History of Photography at the University of Notre Dame (exhibition, 2020-21)