“Candy Cigarette” by Sally Mann is one of the most controversial images of the 20th century. “Candy Cigarette” is a powerful image that explores childhood loss of innocence.
Sally Mann’s use of black and white adds to the power of this thought provoking photograph. It is simple thus contributes to the symbol of youth. There is no distractions just pure imagery. Mann used her own children in this piece of work this fact makes it all the more controversial.
The viewer is initially drawn to the young girl 10 years old, who stands center, dressed in the innocence of white, in total contrast to the fact that she holds a cigarette. She is turning away from the camera as well as the girl in front of her. Her hair is wild with an uninterested expression within the frame of her face. Thus symbolistic of the connotations: loss of youth and innocence. The child’s arm in front of her torso suggests the covering of her youth thus again symbolising personal damage and hazy identity.
I look at this photo and feel sadness and a sense of loneliness. The fact that she holds a “Candy Cigarette” and not a doll or teddy, gives the viewer a harsh reality check. This message is received clearly although controversially, by the presence of the cigarette. Her positioning, slouched, may be to imply her stubbornness and the process of growing up. Unlike her siblings that are facing the path ahead, this exaggerates the exit of child, which is then replaced by a damaged girl influenced by the denotations of being mature and ‘grown up’.
In conclusion, this controversial provocative work symbolises the aura of childhood loss of innocence. This can be associated through the connotations and denotations of the image.
- Sally Mann’s website: http://sallymann.com