Renowned photographer Sally Mann drew a line from the Michigan Theater past Thompson Street as students, staff and residents awaited her rare public appearance on Thursday.

Mann, who was named America’s best photographer of 2001 by TIME Magazine and has received three fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, spoke at the packed Michigan Theater for the weekly Penny W. Stamps Lecture Series on Thursday. During her lecture, she read excerpts from her yet-to-be-published book and showed unreleased photos.

Mann has endured ongoing controversy for her photo book “Immediate Family,” which depicts the upbringing of her three young children, and includes many nude photos and close-ups of her children’s genitals. The book received praise from many critics, but condemnation from mainstream media sources, who referred to the work as child pornography.

When reflecting on her work during the question and answer session, Mann said she still stands by her photos, but hadn’t fully understood the risk involved, warning other photographers not to attempt the same type of work.

“I look back on it and I say this could have gone very, very badly,” she said. “It didn’t go very badly and nobody got hurt and I still stand behind the work and I’m very, very proud of it and I’m glad I did it.”

Mann was humble in discussing her dedication and perseverance when discussing her skills.

“Art is rarely the result of true genius, rather it is a combination of hard work and skills learned and practiced by regular people and, in my case, I practiced my skills in spite of self-doubt so profound it can masquerade as vanity,” she said.

Mann, a Virginia native, talked about the importance of understanding Black history in her home state, and shared stories of her longtime Black nanny who was able to put both of her children through college.

“She had worked for my family for almost 50 years, but to calculate the yearly, monthly, hourly, moment-by-moment love and care she tended our family would be an impossibility,” Mann said.

Mann described the prevalence of racism in the United States during her childhood in the 1950s and 60s. Mann said she didn’t understand racism, and expressed remorse for accepting it as a part of everyday life as a child.

Mann closed the lecture by displaying photos from her new project, “Black Men,” which she said aims to explore the effects of slavery and racism through images of Black men in her community. She explained that slavery is an innate part of the history of the South as a whole, especially Virginia.

The photos for “Black Men” were shot in black and white on film and created using a Collodion process, which gives the pictures a rough look complete with scratches and dust, aging them in the process. Each photo depicts of a close up of a specific body part or feature of a black male in her community.

As a slideshow of the photos proceeded on a screen, Mann read out descriptors such as “teeth,” “roof of the mouth” and “jaw.”

After sharing her work, Mann expressed the particular importance of following one’s passion.

“If I can say anything to you students, do not hesitate to take the pictures that really mean something to you. I don’t care how many other people have taken those same pictures,” Mann said. “You make those pictures and somehow you will make them your pictures because you really, really care about them.”

Art & Design freshman Michael Abboreno said he is excited for her new book to come out, though Mann said it would take at least three years to be published.

“I think that her other pictures were beautiful, but I think these ones illicit such an emotional response from the viewer that it’s going to be incredible,” he said.

Art & Design senior Nealy Stiles said she was surprised by Mann’s modesty.

“I could not have even imagined she was like that,” Stiles said. “It’s really cool that she can still be down-to-Earth while having such an amazing career.”

Mann received a long round of applause after her presentation and was visibly happy with the praise.

“I don’t get applauded at home,” she said.

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