At 12

Sherry and granny, at 12, Sally Mann

“The images in the series and subsequent publication At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women (1988) capture the confusing emotions and developing identities of adolescent girls.”

(, accessed on the 16 november)

The series of images in ‘At 12’ are of interest to me as they were the works of Sally Mann previous to the ‘immediate family’ series. Within this series of images she looked at young girls, all in there teens, mainly twelve years old. I am interested in this series for several reasons, however the main one is the way she took the photo’s of these young girls and the contrast between the images in this series compared to the ‘immediate family series.

Untitled, At 12, Sally Mann

“These photographs offer a subtle and knowing visual statement about that most poignant and vulnerable time, when girls become women.”

(Robert Coles,  psychiatrist and photographic critic)

The images look at young girls in their formative years, and the way in which Sally Mann looks at this is very interesting. You are almost amazed at how young the model’s are, they almost come across much older than we know they are. Within most of the images we get a sense of how each child has been unloved, their facial expressions are cold, and in a lot of the pictures they are alone. In alot of the images their faces are covered, or not shown, this is true with the top image, ‘sherry and granny’. Within this image, we only see Sherry’s torso to high thigh, cutting off her face, however in the image their is a photo of her granny at a similar age. This makes the reader think about what the model will look like, and whether she looks like her granny?! From the composition of the image we gain an understanding that Mann is less interested in the faces of her models, and more so in the body language they express. This is one thing which can definitely said about the images in ‘immediate family’.

Juliet in the Chair, at 12, Sally Mann

It is obvious when looking at the series as a whole Mann’s interest was documenting the development stage of a girls primitive years, into a women. The series that consist of 36 images, look at how girls at girls that age look, what they are like, and even perhaps what they feel. The images definitely hold a sexual feel to them, this is created both with the lighting and the body language. The images also lack the sense of fun, that the ‘immediate family’ images hold, within the ‘At 12’ series there is never any footballs, prams with dolls in or candy cigarettes. Also the girls within these images have a well-groomed look to them, compared to the ‘natural’ look her own children sport in the ‘immediate family’ series.

porterfield and a tree, At 12, Sally Mann

This image is one of only three black girls within the series. This one is of interest as the face is covered, which makes it hard to really tell what age this person is. Also with her outfit, you wouldnt say this was a twelve year old. This could be an example of Mann trying to show development or ‘growing up’ within someone.

“I saw her eye there, peeking at me through a tiny chink in the foliage – cautious, the only sign of a child’s curiosity. She had come out of her apartment dressed as if she were on her way to a job interview. I was confounded by her reserve and composure. I couldn’t imagine what picture I would take midday, midsummer, of this girl more woman than I… We did not speak. She stood absolutely still, only the veiled eye shifting in the still heat.”

(taken from, accessed on the 16th November 2010)

About charliesarsfieldcmp

Im 19, and i want to be interesting, im currently studying contemporary media at westminster and will become a scriptwriter.
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