There are times where days saunter along, one into the other, with few distinguishing characteristics and where inspirational interactions with the world are either muted or altogether absent. But then comes along a work of art, a photograph, a film, a poem that strikes you dead in your tracks and summons your mind, heart and attention to its power. For me, this is what life is about, the continuity of learning, where if one chooses to open themselves up to new experiences and previously unknown data, one will always find a kind of psychic renewal in such discoveries.
I was unaware of the work of photographer Sally Mann up until several days ago but on a whim, I checked out a documentary film about her life, family and work from the library. Mann’s photography has been largely hailed by art critics as some of the best photography in the nation. Time Magazine dubbed her “America’s Best Photographer in 2001.” What the documentary does so well is bring her family life into the frame so that we have a broader, more nuanced understanding of her creative influences, philosophical concerns and goals as an artist. Mann’s photography centers on both universal themes (life, mortality, family, love, hope) as well as regional specificities (Southern motifs, landscapes e.g.). Her work has been described as moody, ethereal, haunting, preternatural, and dream-like.
Once again, sometimes the rewards of learning derive rather simply by taking a chance, picking up a book or film that you know nothing about and finding along the way that life continues to surprise and inspire. This to me is what libraries are all about.