Candy Cigarette Analysis

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The photography of Sally Mann radically destabilises the romantic ideals of childhood and raises questions regarding the interplay between photographer and subject and more notably, between mother and child. The photograph I have chosen to discuss in relation to this is the iconic Candy Cigarette (1989), which was first exhibited and published as part of the controversial photographic series Immediate Family in 1992. The above photograph, which was editioned and exhibited as a gelatine silver print, was shot on a large 8x10-inch long-view camera, a format favoured by the photographer. It depicts Mann’s three children; a boy on stilts in background appears out of focus, while a young girl with her back turned in the right foreground balances…show more content…
Mann uses her children to explore these ulterior depictions of childhood but appears to not place them in scenarios that distance them from their normative childhood behaviours. Rather, she is exploring the lesser documented and often less palatable aspects of childhood through the context of her children, family life and motherhood. Mary Gordon denounces Mann as exploitative by consciously framing her children to become mere objects of sexual gaze. Gordon insists that the girl in Candy Cigarette has a stare reminiscent of a prostitute, her expression is ‘…unambiguously sexualised, and the looker must encounter a sexual invitation.” (Sexualising Children: Thoughts on Sally Mann, 1996). Gordon is not alone in her assessment of Mann’s work as unethical, the photographer was accused of sexualising her children and her work was occasionally condemned as amounting to child pornography. However, unlike Jock Sturges, whose images of nudist adolescents were in some ways reminiscent of Mann, her studio was never raided by FBI agents nor her equipment confiscated. No such action was taken against her. This begs the question, is there is a bipolar societal approach to the male and female gaze in relation to children and adolescents? It also poses questions about the specific sexualisation of the female gender in
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