Virginia, Untitled (Blue Hills)

Accession Number

Virginia, Untitled (Blue Hills)

Sally Mann

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
gelatin silver print, toned with tea, on paper

30 x 38 in. (76.2 x 96.52 cm);32 x 40 in. (81.28 x 101.6 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by Myron and Bobbie Levine

Label copy
March 28, 2009
In 1972 Mann discovered a collection of 10,000 glass negatives taken by photographer Michael Miley following the Civil War; among them were numerous shots of the landscape around her home in Virginia. She was surprised by how familiar and unchanged the land appeared and this experience of suspended time struck her as quintessentially Southern: “Living in the South,” she says, “often means slipping out of temporal joint” because history there is “impossibly present.”
Mann’s haunting and mysterious landscape—devoid of narrative, humans, or any reference to habitation—is a portrait of her ancestral homeland. The photograph was made using a large format vintage camera and an old lens that did not entirely cover the photographic plate, leaving the upper corners black. Mann has also tinted her silver gelatin print with tea, making it evocative of old sepia-colored photographs. The photograph looks back in time to Pictorialism, a movement that dominated photography from the 1890s to the end of the 1930s. In their photographs Pictorialists attempted to imitate painting, especially that of Tonalists such as James McNeill Whistler, and their work was characterized by its fuzzy, moody, and atmospheric qualities.

Subject matter
This photograph uses selective focus, vignetted corners, and paper toned with tea to achieve a vintage photographic effect. This photograph of rural Virginia evokes the history of landscape painting and the memory of a pastoral, antebellum past.

Physical Description
A foggy landscape with silhouetted trees recedes from the left into the hazy distance and sky. The corners of the images are vignetted and the photograph is toned with tea, giving it a light brown-peach color. 

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

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fields (land)
natural landscapes

& Author Notes

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