La Fábrica is the first Spanish gallery to host an exhibition of work by the American photographer Sally Mann. The exhibition, which will run from 13 September to 17 November, includes the 35 black and white portraits comprising the series At Twelve, produced between 1983 and 1985 and published on 1988, and published that same year. In all her portraits of adolescent girls living near her home in Lexington, Virginia, Mann catches the tension in their bodies, eyes and gestures, inherent in the passage from girlhood to womanhood. For five years, Sally Mann carried out an almost-sociological study, capturing that fleeting moment in which the child becomes an adult, and hinting too at the burgeoning sexuality of her sitters.

Sally Mann focuses on her children, her immediate surroundings, on animals, death and the beauty of the Deep South; she has also produced self-portraits, as well as portraits of her husband, who is suffering from muscular dystrophy, a wasting disease. Common to all these various themes is her quest to highlight and explore the transient nature of life.

Sally Mann was born in Lexington, Virginia, in 1951. She grew up in a liberal, artistic household in the rural and religious American South. Mann started taking photographs at high school and continued at University, where she studied Creative Writing. Since her first solo exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., in 1977, her photographs have proved both controversial and influential.

Her work embodies several antithetical trends in contemporary photography. In using her own family as her material, Mann belongs among the documentary photographers, like Tina Barney and Larry Sultan. But the construction of her photographs as fiction rather than fact, with a narrative linking the images, also places her alongside Cindy Sherman and the postmodernists. Finally, the antique look of the prints connects her to the neo-pictorialists. Like them, she depends as much on evocation as on description.

All these features of Mann’s work are to be found in her series At Twelve. The pictures combine the carefully-arranged and the spontaneous; they are at once metaphorical and documentary, at times enigmatically moving, at times wholly shorn of sentimentality. 

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