She produced landscapes and architectural photography, and she blended still life with elements of portraiture. But she truly found her metier with her second publication, a study of girlhood entitled At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women (1988). Between 1984 and 1994, she worked on the series, Immediate Family (1992), which focuses on her three children, who were then all aged under ten. While the series touches on ordinary moments in their daily lives—playing, sleeping, eating—it also speaks to larger themes such as death and cultural perceptions of sexuality.
The images of decadent Sally Mann have the power to remain viable in a timeless dimension, speak to us of love and death with intimate tones, steeped in nostalgia.
"It's in the heart of the grape where that smile lies.
It's in the good-bye-bow in the hair where that smile lies.
It's in the clerical collar of the dress where that smile lies.
What smile? The smile of my seventh year,
It's peeling now, age has got it, a kind of cancer of the background and also in the assorted features.
It's like a rotten flag or a vegetable from the refrigerator, pocked with mold.
I am aging without sound, into darkness, darkness.
Anne, who are you?
I open the vein and my blood rings like roller skates.
I open the mouth and my teeth are an angry army.
I open the eyes and they go sick like dogs with what they have seen.
I open the hair and it falls apart like dust balls.
I open the dress and I see a child bent on a toilet seat.
I crouch there, sitting dumbly pushing the enemas out like ice cream, letting the whole brown world turn into sweets.
Anne, who are you? Merely a kid keeping alive."
Baby Picture-Anne Sexton