Mann had made very few self-portraits prior to this series. Her decision to focus on her face or torso was largely a result of the physical limitations she endured during her long recovery. The tight composition and directness of gaze is heightened by the physical attributes of the process. Mann deliberately included the process’s streaks, scratches, and pitting into her finished works, and intentionally rejected early efforts that she deemed too traditionally beautiful. By embracing these artifacts of the process, Mann allows them to play a supporting role in these direct and penetrating self-portrait studies.
The ambrotype process is unpredictable and time-sensitive. The coating of the glass plate with collodion, exposure, and processing take about 6 minutes. The fast working pace gives the finished artwork a startling immediacy. Mann made ambrotype self-portraits in two sizes, 15 by 13½ and 10 by 8 inches. The three unique photographs offered here are in the larger format.
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