Photographer: Sally Mann

In both family scenes and rural landscapes, she views the world with singularly naked candor

In the swarm of artistically minded boomers who matured in the 1970s, there were thousands who hoped to become filmmakers or photographers. Many of the photographers--working with sophisticated cameras that can produce an occasional striking image almost without human intervention--won a brief success. But three successive decades have drastically winnowed their numbers, and only a few now stand in the ranks of mastery that include such predecessors as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.

Tall among them is Sally Mann. After she completed college, Mann, 50, returned to her hometown in Virginia. There she and her lawyer husband have raised a family,...

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