Skip to main content

tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  June 2, 2015 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT

12:00 pm
>> rose: welcome to the program. tonight, a rare one-hour conversation with photographer sally mann. >> i just started taking pictures. it was an instant love affair. >> rose: what was it? what was it? >> rose: yeah. it was ecstatic. the joy of looking at a negative, you know the picture is dripping down your arms and you hold it up to the light. it's magic. it's still magic sphoo is that more than taking the picture? >> yeah, maybe. because you take the picture and you so fervently pray you got the tenth of a second you thought you got and so many times you don't, you have the tenth of the second either side of the one you hoped you got. so really it's when you see the negative that the moment happens. there is nothing like that moment. i've said at other times it's
12:01 pm
almost sexual in its intensity. you're just ecstatic. >> rose: sally mann for the how whenhour, when we continue. >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by: >> rose: additional funding provided by: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: sally mann is one of america's preeminent photographers for three decades. she has captured images that are haunting, disturbing and romantic all at once. her 1992 series called
12:02 pm
"immediate family" made her fairnlings created over ten years, featured her children at their home on their virginia farm. the photos deemed great work of art outraged some for composition and nudity. sally writes about that moment as well as her life and work in a new book called, hold still a memoir with photographs. i spoke with sally mann for a rare and candid conversation in new york city. what brought you to say rather than taking pictures i'm going to write about the taking of pictures and my own life? >> well, what brought me there was i was invited to the lectures at harvard. i thought it was misaddressed the envelopes. the three lectures, an hour
12:03 pm
each, scholarly, intellectual academic lectures, and it took me a year to say yes, and it was for three years down the road. so i had plenty of time to think about it. >> rose: this is a culmination of a life in photography. >> yeah, it is but it turned out to be more than that, because when i went -- when i set out to write the lectures, i went so far back in time and began to study the whole genetic thread that brought me there and went up to the at tick, -- the attic, like i guess everybody does. >> rose: found tall memories. yeah, the pictures, letters, dried boot boutonnieres and the ship's manifests. >> you seem to always be interested in life and death and memory and history and place. >> yeah. that might be because i'm a southerner.
12:04 pm
you know about that. >> rose: i do. yeah, those seem to be -- >> rose: we like to tell stories. >> yeah, we do. >> rose: and you do it with a camera. >> yeah. >> rose: i do it with voice. yeah. >> rose: when did this love affair with photography begin? >> pretty early, really. 17. >> rose: yeah. did your dad give you your first camera? >> he did. he had a lyka he had taken around the world in 1939 1939 -- '37 and he handed it to me with virtually no explanation, no this is how you load the film and this little weston light meter, you remember all that stuff. >> rose: yeah. and i just started taking pictures and it was an instant love affair. >> rose: what was it? it was ecstatic. it was -- the joy of looking at a negative that's dripping down
12:05 pm
your arms and you hold it up to the light, it's just magic. it's still magic. >> rose: it's that more than taking the picture? >> yeah, maybe because you take the picture and you just so fervently pray you got the tenth of a second that you thought you got, and so many times you don't, you get the tenth of a second either side of the one you hoped you got. so really it's when you see the negative that the moment happens. and there's nothing like that moment. i mean, i've said at other times, it's almost sexual in its intensity. you're just ecstatic. >> rose: and do you see it instantly, the one that -- >> if you know how to read -- yeah, yeah yeah. even in negative form which is, of course, reversed, you can tell right away because it has the proportions and the right feel to it. you just know it. >> rose: and you like black and white. >> i do.
12:06 pm
i do. it's harder. that's not why i like it. it's harder but it also makes you get right to the essence of what you're taking the picture of. you're not distracted by the color. color is an entirely different process and way of thinking. >> rose: the interesting thing is you live on a farm which is full of color. it's green grass blue skies and forest and everything. >> yeah, it's funny though, see, the way my mind works i see everything in black and white, and i also now start seeing things, like i see you right now in a little 8x10 rectangle. >> rose: oh, god help me... (laughter) >> yeah, but you start blocking out things and that's an important part to take a picture is the ability to isolate what you're concentrating on. even like sometimes when i'm reading a book, and i don't know if everyone does this, but i will be reading a book and it
12:07 pm
will be describing a scene and i will see the scene in my mind as sort of an i idetic vision but i will see it as a black and white photograph. i will say the sky should be brighter. there you are in faulkner and quintin's about to throw himself off the bridge and i'm saying the river should be dark, but the trees -- i think visually all the time. >> rose: back to putny. oh, gosh -- >> rose: i heard someone said the reason you liked photography and the dark room is the place you and your boyfriend could kind of get together. >> yeah, get together is sort of a euphemism. (laughter) yeah, there was that, no question about that. >> rose: you took your first intimate photograph there. >> yes, and immediately got in trouble. i got trouble for everything at
12:08 pm
putny. i was a bad girl. but the picture got me in trouble. completely, for once, i was innocent. it was a can completely innocent picture but involved nudity. >> rose: we'll talk more about that. >> okay. maybe not too much. >> rose: because this is a life and there are so many other things that compete with the pictures as to who you are. has to do with family and land skip and history, as i said. but you wanted to go back to where you came from. you wanted to go back to virginia. >> well, i never left virginia. i mean just for the briefest time. and the whole time i was miserable. >> rose: really? well, pretty much. i left the embruce of embrace of the mountains and the kindness of the people and the sweetness of the land. vermont just didn't do it for
12:09 pm
me. >> rose: the older i get, the more i appreciate kindness. >> no kidding. isn't it funny that the south which is so known for violence and prejudice can have in its boundaries the sweetest kindest people most generous. >> rose: you got a job in washington. >> briefly. >> rose: and what was it, there was a building there you photographed? >> i was in law school. i photographed that. >> rose: then an exhibition? you have done your homework! good grief! >> rose: but it's you your life! >> yeah, but... >> rose: and these photographs sit on top of a life. >> yeah, it's a big pile of 'em. >> rose: and especially your life. the family is central. >> yeah. >> rose: do you go back to a place where your father was a general practitioner. >> yeah. >> rose: your mother ran a book store. >> mm-hmm. >> rose: your husband is a
12:10 pm
lawyer. >> yes, but he was a blacksmith for the first ten years of our marriage. >> rose: he loved horses. he did love horses, yeah. he still loves horses, he just can't ride, unfortunately. yeah. >> rose: but immediately family, that came, what, in 1990 or thereabouts? >> i think the book came out in '92, something like that. i started the pictures. i said '84. probably closer to '85. >> rose: how do you measure getting better? >> i think it's sort of a visceral thing. >> rose: you could see the difference in sally mann 2015 and sally mann 2000, 15 years. >> yeah. again, i don't know if it's an intellectual process, although i may ask myself intellectual
12:11 pm
question. the difference is i used to be taking pictures to save things. the impulse was to take pictures to save something or to try and see what something would look like when photographed. it was an aesthetic exercise, and now it's a lot more important to me to actually say something as opposed to save something. i'm working from an intellectual construct and i'm trying to use the photographs in service to a concept, which i didn't start out that way. i didn't start printing family pictures to talk. i was just taking pictures because the kids were around and gradually a construct was built around that. >> rose: that's what immediate family was about. they were around. >> they were documentary in origin. they grew less so. >> rose: they grew to become what? >> they grew to have a narrative
12:12 pm
around them, an aesthetic and intellectual narrative and metaphorical implications. you know, they got much more complicated. >> rose: do you know what you were doing? >> no. i mean, i was -- i think i had begun to make a commitment to using the commonplace to somehow make images that were resonant and revelatory in a universally aesthetic and lyrical way and what could be more commonplace than children, rug rats. >> rose: your own children. yeah. >> rose: at a cabin. yeah. i'd worked with the 12-year-old before then, so i was becoming more and more -- >> rose: they were 10 and under at the time. >> the 12-year-olds were 12. >> rose: no -- oh, you mean the kids?
12:13 pm
the kids weren't even born. >> rose: when you took the photographs, they were all under 10. >> yeah, when i started the photographs, virginia was newborn. so, yeah... >> rose: what were you seeing and what were you telling us? because, on the one hand, it is all the themes of what it means to be young -- playing jumping in the water, all that -- on the other hand, people read into it themes of loneliness quiet sexuality -- >> people read unbelievable things into it. that's what was so shocking to me. i knew they were not without undertones. i knew they were not simple snapshots, but some of the ways that they were interpreted were shocking to me. >> rose: you knew there would be controversy. >> i didn't, but i found out soon enough. yeah. i say i was blindsided and i was by -- >> rose: by all the things
12:14 pm
people said or accused you of because you were photographing naked children? >> yeah, there was that. >> rose: and people considered them beautiful and brilliant and -- well, they marked you as a photographer. people said, a great photographer has just appeared. that was the beginning of sally mann's public -- >> yeah, yeah, that's true. >> rose: i remember too, the things that you did -- i mean, you clearly were conscious of making sure you had them talk to psychologists. >> mm-hmm. >> rose: you were concerned about, you know, not showing photographs that they didn't like. >> right, yeah. i mean, i give them editorial control. >> rose: you were concerned. inasmuch as a child can have editorial concern, editorial discernment, you know, and that's the concern that so many people had was how could they know? but they did. they were visually sophisticated
12:15 pm
kids and they knew what we were doing. we talked about the pictures. >> rose: what was the conversation? >> well, you know, do you like this? do you think this -- what do you think this picture says? does this picture say something about you that you're not comfortable with? >> rose: and what did your husband larry say? >> the same. >> rose: this is a close family. >> pretty close, yeah. >> rose: as these photographs told us. this is a family that has no secrets between them. >> well, i would imagine there are a few secrets but we're a prett close family even now or especially now maybe. >> rose: they're all successful adults. how do they see the photographs? >> i usually answer that by saying you should ask them. (laughter) i mean they're all in their 30s and, in fact virginia is right over there and i suggest you consult her. but, you know, i think they're proud of them.
12:16 pm
i remember -- actually, it was virginia. she wanted to give immediate family to her math teacher for christmas. even then yeah. >> rose: so they understood. or they appreciated it. >> they appreciated it. i think they understood it. that's the argument i make, and i'm sure child psychologists will take issue with that, but some. >> rose: yeah. ♪ >> rose: here is virginia. tell me about what it was like to live in a household where you had a mother who was obsessed by photographing that which she knew best -- her family. >> well, i think one of the things that you may not appreciate about the pictures is that we were incredibly lucky to have a mother who was at home all the time, and we got to work with her and she somehow found a way to make her work something we did as a collaborative. so even though she was obsessed,
12:17 pm
it was also just our reality. >> rose: she was taking pictures of your reality. >> exactly, yeah. >> rose: you felt so collaborative. >> absolutely. >> rose: this is about us, we're part of this. >> right. >> rose: and if we don't have to be part of it, we don't have to be. >> we were proud of it. >> rose: did you want to be a photographer? was there any sense i'd love to do what mom does? >> first of all i never showed any aptitude for it. i never really wanted to go into anything involving photography or art at all. >> rose: are you and your brother and sister different? terms of how you view all of this? >> i don't think so. i think that we're all just incredibly proud of this body of work and proud of what mom has achieved and -- but it's also something we feel we've achieved. we have been there through so much of it and -- >> it's collaborative. every body of work was
12:18 pm
collaborative. we've gone through choosing what pictures were going to be in the show, and we've gone to the openings and been involved. >> rose: you were involved in choosing pictures, even if pictures of landscapes? >> well, we certainly gave our opinions. >> yeah. she didn't really raise shy children. >> i listen to you. >> rose: this made her famous, and you, to a degree, but did it have, when you look back at it, an impact on you other than pride? >> i think it did. it's hard to say because i was quite young when the book came out in '92. >> rose: you were what, 6 8? 7 or 8 when the book came out, so it's something i adapted to quickly. i think with jesse, it was a
12:19 pm
little more. they felt the shift more severely than i did. >> rose: shift in -- in our life. i mean, we're suddenly traveling the world and we were known in a way that we had never experienced before. >> but i think there were moments where it's character building. >> it certainly presented its own unique challenges. >> very unique challenges. i think there are people -- i mean, i would say the biggest thing is i get quite productive of our privacy so people who let's say, find out who i am and there is sort of this debate as how did the kids turn out? i don't think that's anybody's business. i am who i am and i have my own identity. so we've gone through all of that, but it just has shaped who we are and it was character building. >> rose: character building because it added a dimension to your life that you had to face? >> exactly, but everyone has their challenges.
12:20 pm
>> rose: after "immediate family," sally moved on. for more than two decades, she's been exploring themes of place history and mortality. i asked her where she finds her inspiration. >> it's funny because the way it works for me is i don't really make a decision about what i want to do next, it kind of comes to me. it's like sort of a hidden, ardent lover that you keep to the side and then it calls to you so that while i was taking the family pictures, i had this desire to take landscapes. i know this sounds completely hokie, but it was true and i had my camera set up and i would rotate my camera away from the pictures and think again 8x10s, i would find images, a milky brown glass of the camera. i was seduced by landscapes and conspicuously available for seduction just because of the fact that the kids were leaving
12:21 pm
home about that time. >> rose: you were available for seduction... (laughter) >> yeah, well -- >> rose: i am available for seduction if any landscapes want me, here i am. >> yeah, there you go, and they did. (laughter) yeah. >> rose: but it's part of your love for the south because you write about that here in this memoir. >> yes, in fullsome prose. >> rose: and then there's gigi. >> there's gigi. >> rose: you write about her. yeah, very important to me. >> rose:? in what way? >> i read in the book, i was raced as kind of a feral child. the whole 1950s thing very hands off. i don't know what your childhood was like, but -- >> rose: much like yours. yeah, i would be gone all day and no one would even look for me. >> rose: i had complete freedom. >> mm-hmm. >> rose: i could go and come. i had know of curfew, nothing.
12:22 pm
>> yeah. >> rose: at no age. yeah. no, i was a -- >> rose: and my parents consulted me -- >> my parents just didn't care. i don't think it was trust. >> rose: well, they knew i could take care of myself is what it was with me. >> well, i had this little unneutered beagle and he would go all over, for miles we would go. i remember i would come home and my mouth would be blackened. you remember tar on the road? >> rose: yeah. i would sthiew tar when i'd get hungry. can't have done me any good, but -- and nobody would care. i would come home and they'd wipe the tar off my mouth. >> rose: i got ahead of myself, too. what remains -- these are about 2005 correct? >> you probably know better than i do. >> rose: that's where you did tall landscapes of the south and the battlefields and emmet till
12:23 pm
and all that. >> emmet till was still linked in with the deep south pictures. and then the battlefields -- i don't know, i'm sure you have it on that piece of paper somewhere. >> rose: what remained was 2003. >> there you go. >> rose: and there it was your greyhound. >> right. >> rose: what was it about dieing? understanding death and what it means? >> yeah, it started out that way as sort of almost a document riimpulse because she -- a documentary impulse. she died and i couldn't bear to leave her. i had her skinned and i took the body and buried it and it ended up decomposing in this almost constellation of little bones and it went from there, you know. it was an odd leap to make, but i began asking the question about the landscape in which she was buried. and then --
12:24 pm
>> rose: so interesting you get engaged in something like that and just go on a rampage. >> yeah, i'm a little terrier-like. >> rose: you are. (laughter) and then because of your dead greyhound, you get interested in other dead and decomposing bodies. >> yeah. >> rose: what is your camera telling us? >> well, i don't know... >> rose: you just wrote a memoir. >> quo, iyeah, i know. i'm like the dance who are did the wonderful dance and the interviewers asked what was that about and she said if i could say it in words i wouldn't have danced it for you. (laughter) >> rose: the book is part of you thinking about all of this. >> yeah. >> rose: and find some meaning in it other than just -- >> yeah, and it's a huge translation. usually it's enough just to take the picture and put them on the wall and assume if you're a good
12:25 pm
enough artist your meaning is plain, right? but then to have to somehow make the translation from visual art to written words, it was really quite interesting. it's a whole different way of thinking to be able to talk about your work as not so easy, turns out. >> of john grisham they said the pictures reveal a fine talent for writing. >> bless his heart. >> rose: were words hard for you to match the pictures? because the pictures spoke to intuitively and insightfully to what, you know -- you show us the hard reality or the beautiful reality. >> well, thank you. >> rose: that's what you try to show us. are you using mortality and death and what happens and what
12:26 pm
remains? because that's what you titled it, "what remains." >> you mean that show? >> rose: yeah. yeah. you do ask that question, don't you? that's like laurie anderson saying i feel like a library burned down when i lost my father. you do. it's sort of a notion of what finally is memory about and what does remain and how do you preserve the moment? can you preserve the moment? is there such a thing as an afterlife, so to speak. >> rose: and the largest number of casualties ever in an american war in one day or two days is part of that. >> yeah. >> rose: you end because you go back to the living. you went back to closeups of
12:27 pm
your children to say there's hope and a future. >> exactly. the vitality and the fearlessness of those faces. that's what i love about that body of work and the pictures of the children are their faces. >> you're going from death to life. >> you sure are the negative to the affirmative, yeah. >> rose: and in 2009, "proud flesh." >> yeah, may be one of my favorite bodies of work and one of the toughest in so many ways. >> rose: because it was painful to you? >> it's a difficult -- you know anytime you make a picture of a vulnerable subject -- and larry is vulnerable, he has muscular dystrophy, so parts of his body have lost all their muscle. his upper left arm is no -- his by acceptbicep is no bigger than my wrist at this point, so no muse.
12:28 pm
>> that's what muscular dystrophy does to you. and you band to -- and you wanted to do this, as hard as it is. >> it was hard for me, but it's harder for him. when you have a subject willing to put themselves out like that and completely unashamed and completely willing to be in a picture that comes at the expense of his vanity -- >> rose: vanity fragility -- exactly, vulnerability exposure, all that. but all photographic portraiture, that's the risk, always, no matter how public a figure you are how used you are to being photographed, you're always at the mercy of the photographer. we hold all the cards. >> rose: and the how we are. -- >> rose: and the power. and the power. >> rose: therefore, could we see trust in that? >> i would say. yeah, he does trust me. >> rose: in these photographs.
12:29 pm
yeah. there are pictures that i've taken that make me ache for him and i would say, are you sure you want me to show these pictures? and he said, yeah. it's a certain sense that measure of discomfort is worth it to him for the sake of what we like to think is a good piece of art. >> rose: what was his response to them? after he saw the book. >> yeah, i'm still photographing him. >> rose: i know you are. yeah, he's still willing to do it. i mean, more than willing. he really -- he believes that what we make together is important. >> rose: it's been a good marriage. >> 45 years. the last time we sat across from each other, it was 34 years. so we've managed to put in another 11. wait, i'm not so good with math -- yeah, 11. >> rose: 45, you said? mm-hmm, 45 in june. >> rose: saw my math scores
12:30 pm
laugh (laughter) >> rose: you chose the right proprofession. >> yeah. >> rose: or did it choose you? yeah. it's a demanding mistress. >> rose: when did the realization you're an artist come to you? it's not just the photographer. not that photography can just be art but it's more than taking pictures. >> i was always sort of bifurcated between writing and photography. i loved both. i wanted to be a poet, but how do you earn a living as a poet? hard the to do. so i guess early on, i didn't think of it quite that way. i mean, i went around wearing a beret and smoking.
12:31 pm
i was the left bank of lexington (laughter) yeah, i mean, i wanted to be an artist but i wasn't entirely sure i could pull it off. >> rose: and you haven't gone out and reached out to every new technology that comes down the pike, have you? >> yeah, i'm borrowing a little from this digital. >> rose: ah... i knew this was coming. yeah, i can't ignore it? because it gives you power to do more things? >> yeah, i can do more things. you can tell your story bet -- >> rose: you can tell your story better. >> i can get what i want better. i'm not sure i'll give up silver printing. >> reporter: that's your liquid, isn't it? >> well, that and bourbon. (laughter) >> rose: i knew there was a reason i loved you so much. >> yeah. >> rose: silver and bourbon. silver and bourbon. >> rose: that could be the next memoir. >> that's a good title.
12:32 pm
don't you dare steal it from me. (laughter) >> rose: why did you title this "whole steel," sally mann? >> well, i pulled it out of the text. there is one point where i'm describing the feeling of taking a picture and you're going hold still, hold still, hold still hold still because it's that important. but someone said it should be titled "hold still," sally mann just because i'm so phonetically hummingbirdish. >> rose: you are tough. you are tough. >> yeah... i don't know... >> rose: you are tough on yourself and tough on your art demanding a lot of yourself, living in a cacoon of family but you attack the world. >> i'm painfully insecure. i have this self doubt that i said in the book it masquerades
12:33 pm
in vanity. other people see my career as, you know one success piled on to another success right. i see myself as reeling from botch to botch. you know failure to failure. >> rose: where have you failed? >> oh, god! don't ask! >> rose: i'm asking. oh... i don't know i never think it's good enough. yeah, i look back and -- well, you know i'm obsessively reshooting things, trying for perfection, impiety and perfection, those are the goals. >> rose: would you recognize perfection if you saw it? >> you know, there are a few pictures i would say are perfect. i wouldn't change a thing. >> rose: what do they contain? that thing --
12:34 pm
>> rose: as an opera star, were there moments on stage where you knew you nailed it, you had put it together in a way that you can't even remember how you did it? you just know that night and that song, you were there. >> yeah, and they say -- >> rose: yes. and what do they say it feels like? >> rose: i remember beverly sills talking about that, you just want to hold it -- >> but it's completely ephemeral. transcendent but ephemeral at the same time, fleeting, absolutely. >> rose: there's a great story of laurence olivier who had just delivered a great shakespearean performance and they went
12:35 pm
backstage -- >> one among many. >> rose: went backstage to congratulate him with some fellow actors and he had his head in his hand. and i said larry unbelievable, never been better! you know how good you were! he said, yeah, i know, but i don't know how. >> he doesn't know how he did it? >> rose: yeah, i don't know how i did it. >> that's when the muse steps in. >> rose: really? may be. >> rose: do you believe in that because you believe in exactly the opposite. >> i don't know. we went through this. (laughter) i said to you at one time i didn't believe in talent and you said you did is that i do. >> so i thought we should settle this once and for all because i do think there is a sort of weighted sensibility. i think there is a privileged sensibility, and maybe that's what talent is, i don't know. but i think it's so vanishingly small in the scale of things.
12:36 pm
>> rose: i do, too. can i tell you i've compostly to where you are? >> we've changed places. i've come mostly because after doing this for so long and talking to so many people of enormous talent -- >> what do you think is talent? >> rose: yeah, what i think is talent. they always talk about effort -- >> yeah. >> rose: how hard it was. those 10,000 hours. >> rose: those 10,000 hours and more. >> yeah. >> rose: they all do. so are you convinced now? >> rose: more convinced because my life experience is that, too. you are good because you, most of all because of the labor that goes into it. >> the tenacity. you have to just do it and do it and do it until you get it right. >> rose: i wonder sometimes what is essentially is true is a select few can reach that kind of greatness and those select few are those who had something special, but they didn't put in
12:37 pm
the 10,000 hours. >> right. >> rose: they put in the hard work. >> well, like i say -- >> rose: it's an indearing sense of this is not right. this is not right. >> mm-hmm. but i do think there is some privilege sensibility. and we're not talking here about mozart's, those guys really are geniuses. >> rose: sure. but we're talking about the rest of us who make ordinary art, just regular people who work really hard and make ordinary art. >> rose: but when people saw yours they knew they were looking at something special. they don't see what goes into it, they see what comes out of it. >> isn't that true with everything? >> rose: yeah. every book you hold up when you're interviewing someone is five years of their life. >> rose: exactly. what was hardest about those? was it the memories? >> no... >> rose: or was getting it right? >> well, that's always the hardest, of course, the getting it right. why should a book take five
12:38 pm
years? i'm talking about eight and then-hour days and weekends, too. >> rose: i know. you believe this because other people have said this, i'm sure. >> rose: hardest thing they'd ever done in their life was to write. >> no question about it. the difference is robert frank was talking about it, he lived in a courtyard across from decunning and he said he saw him pacing back and forth trying to put painting on canvass and realized as a photographer all he had to do was hold the view finder to his face and find the decisive moment. but when you're a writer or a painter, it's so much more difficult, and that's why it took five years was bays i -- because i had to conjure the whole thing up from scratch. photography's all about choices right? but writing is about choices too. but you also have to create the
12:39 pm
choices. they're not out there in the world for you. sphoo do you want to>> rose: do you want to do it again? >> i don't think so. >> rose: you have nothing left to say? >> got knows. 500 pages. >> rose: it's 2015 and you talk about everything here. you talk about you and influence on your life and how photography can change the world? >> i think it can. it's a big argument with eugene richards about that the other day. i always thought he was brilliant and i, you know, made that sweeping announcement that i thought he could change the world and he said, you're crazy. he's one of the people making the photographs that i think can change the world. i think it's historical fact photography changed the world. of course. it stopped the vietnam war. >> rose: it did. it changed the course of the
12:40 pm
civil war -- not to interrupt you, but -- >> rose: civil rights, selma. exactly. >> rose: it was photographs and moving images -- >> right. >> rose: -- of brutality and violence that said to people in power -- >> we can't have this in america. well, it's going on right now. >> rose: it's a different world because everybody has a camera. >> i was walking down the street in new york city and a cabbie was having a fight with a woman on park avenue, i gets your standard new york argument, and there were three people with their cameras out videotaping. it wasn't even a fist fight. it was yelling from the window to this woman. i thought, wow... now don't tell me photography doesn't make a difference. right there, probably prevented something else from happening. >> rose: look at something like instagram how obsessed we are about photographs. people would rather get a photograph than text any day of
12:41 pm
the week. >> yeah. what do you think that will do? >> rose: the social media has a real impact when we see what you were talking about and you see it globally. you know, we're looking as we take this, we're looking at a catastrophe of more than, so far, 3,000 people killed by a earthquake in nepal. >> that many now? i don't listen to the news. >> rose: close to it. oh, my god. >> rose: so you're looking at a situation where people will have to respond. it clearly has power and influence. >> mm-hmm. >> rose: yet it also contains beauty. >> that's true. >> rose: paintings and film can take you to a place that only your mind can imagine. >> but slowly enough, i think it's limited -- a photograph is limited just in terms of what it
12:42 pm
can conjure. we're talking what it can do it politically, but as we were driving over today, i was thinking, you know, the way photographs work with memory is so much different than other things, and i, of course, going back to proof, just the idea of a deco-legend, curling photograph, so one dimensional, but there's proof texture form, shape, detail, three dimensional. photography is really an interesting and complicated concept. the varied ways in which it's used. >> rose: here's the power though, and this is the power in your dark room -- you choose what we see. >> right. >> rose: and i see this all the time. there will be a picture on the cover of a newspaper and then a different picture inside. >> yeah. >> rose: in that case an
12:43 pm
editor chose. >> right. >> rose: but you chose first because you chose the images we were allowed to see. we may choose among them but you made the first choice. >> yeah. have you ever studied contact sheets like the famous picture of the little boy and -- it's fascinating. there is a kid in central park, perfectly normal happens to be holding a hand grenade but nothing weird about him and there's 12 pictures on the role. 11 pictures are absolutely ordinary, just a kid standing there, and one picture where he makes a terrible grimace and his hands are clutched and of course that's the picture she chose. but when you look at contact sheets and study why people chose the pictures they did it's fascinating. >> reporter: well, there is a story of a "new york times" reporter who wrote about in the "new york times" coming to photograph you and basically was having trouble, was nervous and wrote about it --
12:44 pm
>> oh, he was she was lovely. >> rose: if i'm going to notify the great sally mann, i have to be good. >> she was so good. >> rose: she was worried. and you finally said, just shoot. >> yeah. >> rose: that's what you told her. quit worrying, shoot! >> yeah, and she has one of these modern cameras where it shoots and like a machine gun. >> rose: what do you think of those cameras? >> i'm beginning to see the utility of them. monkey at a type writer, just push the button. >> rose: just shoot as you put it. >> just shoot? >> rose: point and shoot. it's that simple. you will get a good picture! >> rose: that's the point. all this stuff of being able to you know, frame it. but at the same time she said -- she looked at all the pictures and they were all kind of out of
12:45 pm
focus, but there was one that you saw of a hand. >> yeah. >> rose: and you said that's the one! >> we both said it in unison. we were scrolling through thousands of pictures and then, boom! just like that. yeah. >> rose: okay. let me talk about family too about gigi. tell me more about her. >> well -- >> rose: because there was a gigi in my life. >> yeah, i think there was a gigi in a lot of people of our generation in the south. they were extremely important. reynolds price wrote a lot about the importance of that person and particularly if you were a little truman capote like and needed extra cuddling and attention or if you were difficult, like i was -- i'm sure you were not an easy child either, right? (laughter) and i don't know how your parents were but in my case, they just weren't particularly available to me. they had other things to do and she was always there.
12:46 pm
>> rose: they were fine with me. let me talk about your family, your father and mother and the legacy. you tell me. >> well, you know, a third of the book is devoted to my father, and he deserves every page of it. he's just one of the most complex, interesting -- >> rose: among other things, an atheist? >> yeah, he was that. and not -- that's a difficult thing to be in the south as you can imagine. >> rose: yeah. but he was also contempt chouse of television and very much an intellectual, art lover foody, sophisticated on probably every revel. >> rose: probably read the "new yorker" magazine. >> and the hartford and got them all. he got the "new york times" and "washington post" every sunday. they were very intellectual. >> rose: were they happy?
12:47 pm
i'm not entirely sure. he's a medical doctor, but he gave up, to be a medical doctor and a devoted one he gave up a great deal. >> rose: he gave up what you are? >> he gave up literature and art and those were the two things he loved. very interesting. >> rose: and he knew it. yeah, he did know it, and i think that was the poignancy of squandered genius about him always. >> rose: you're more him than your mother's daughter? >> other than i look almost identical to my mother. it's shocking how much i look like her, or maybe less so now. >> rose: genetics are true? genetics, yeah. i tell the story in the book, i was walking down the street in boston one time and a man came up and said was i ken to
12:48 pm
elizabeth evans and said he hadn't seen her in over 30 years, and i said i'm her daughter. >> rose: you think about all these relationships, there are things you have taken pictures of and i'm assure gigi made you interested in at one point the legacy of slavery? >> she made me aware of it but not overtly. she was very circumsuspect. it was when i went to putny that i was introduced to faulkner by a black man jeff campbell, and when he handed it to me, i think he must have known he was opening the door to some very difficult questions. in fact, yeah, those questions just strolled right in. >> rose: what haven't you done? what questions have you not answered through photography for
12:49 pm
yourself? what do you owe us you haven't done? >> i'm working on a project. i touch on it a little bit in the book. it's all devoted to gigi. it's actually a testimonial, perhaps, to gigi and her importance to me but i'm working on the legacy of slavery in the south, which i think is one of the most underdiscussed and profound phenomenon and in the whole united states, but particularly in the south. i'm particularly focusing on the nature of what kept the slaves alive, what kept their hope alive and focusing a little bit on the nat turner rebellion. >> rose: and how will you do this? >> you would think i would have an answer to this but i don't quite know yet. i'm working -- i'm photographing the dismal swamp and the rivers in the neighborhoods of nat
12:50 pm
turner's rebellion, because that's where he was going. he was going to the swamp which offered refuge to particularly intrepid or desperate slaves because they wouldn't track them into the dismal swamp. >> rose: fear of alligators? of everything. that place was awful. now they've discovered the whole villages, the towns in the dismal swamps, and i'm photographing those. it's fascinating. the whole question of how slavery has affected the south which is kind of a large topic yeah. so black men rivers, i'm photographing little churches, the importance of religion. >> rose: how about courthouses? >> idea. >> rose: you serious? i am serious. >> rose: it's about a certain kind of justice and not justice. >> yeah, exactly. courthouses. i was thinking of song, too how
12:51 pm
that -- and the night sky. i mean, surely the night sky was of critical importance to escape and to communication. anyway, who knows. >> rose: because you have looked at history so much and because you have looked at death and decay so much, do you feel any sense of mortality and rushing to finish so many things? >> oh, do i all i have to do is look in the mirror. i don't have to look at death and decay. >> rose: what do you see when you look in the mirror? >> i'm shocked every time i do. yeah. >> rose: how would you like to be on television for 25 years? >> yeah, i know. i can only imagine. yeah, it's bad enough being on television for 25 minutes. i was agasp!
12:52 pm
that can't be me! >> rose: there is an urgency to go a lot of things. >> absolutely. i'm frantic. i don't waste any time. i don't waste time. i work all the time. i never leave home. i mean, i just -- i just stay honed in on what's ahead. i'm sure you do, too, right? it's the only way. >> rose: you know, i was thinking about it, too. in the end it's love and work, you know. >> mm-hmm. >> rose: freud and shakespeare, whoever deserves credit. love of family, love of friends love of the world around you. >> right. >> rose: and at the same time it's work to find your place. >> and leave your mark. >> rose: and leave your mark. yep. >> rose: you know and that connects you to your father. >> yeah. >> rose: thank you for this. thank you.
12:53 pm
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
12:54 pm
>> rose: my thanks to my colleague at cbs producer page kendig for the marred work on the sally mann conversation and edit. for more about this program and earlier episodes, visit us online at and captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
12:55 pm
>> rose: this may surprise you but this is the first time i have been in a fighter plane or similar later. what is the feeling here? what am i about to get into in. >> we call it strapping yourself into the jet and wanting to become one with the jet. >> rose: shall i get in? all right. >> rose: this is like a dream come true. >> you're already moving. you're good. you're going 91 astronauts right now. keep that thing forward, put it into full afterburner, you're flying. pretty easy. >> rose: yeah. give it an aileron roll, left
12:56 pm
or right. >> rose: ever done that on a plane? >> yeah. that's the flight path marker where your jet is going. you're about 15 miles away from the runway. i think you've got it. >> rose: i have a pretty good instructor.
12:57 pm
12:58 pm
12:59 pm
1:00 pm
"the jewel in the crown" was made possible in part by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. [stately music plays]