Artist statement – Innocence Lost: Jessica Maria Manley

My original work was heavily inspired by Sally Mann’s intimate portraits of her children. As I began my photographic journey eight years ago, I set out to capture moments of my younger sisters life. These early photographs are more organic in that they were natural occurring moments captured on film. I was experiencing for the first time how a child grows up and was documenting these moments with my photographs. I was becoming increasingly aware of how a child is affected by the things they are exposed to. It was also the first time I witnessed the changes that a child experiences as they mature and develop into the person that are to become. The photographs became a series of accidental moments captured on film.

    When I began shooting these images of my sister in her natural environment I was able to see her immersed in authentic play, play that engaged her mentally, physically and emotionally.As a part of her familiar world, my presences was non-intrusive of this natural process.I was in awe of fantasy filled world. A universe of no-extrinsic goals, a place full of imagination with created pretend scenarios and make-believe plots. I saw a freedom of time which enabled her to be fully in the moment and totally engaged. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, I started to observe the innocence disappearing from her landscape. Her ability to experience the wonders of play were being replaced with adult like self-consciousness, apprehension, and strain.
    I was becoming increasingly aware of the changes taking place in modern childhood. I was seeing the effects of the ever-present pressures on children, especially Young girls, to grow up fast.  Although I was photographing my sister at a very young age there was an mature gaze that was ever present and a sense that she was wise beyond her years. The thief of innocence being a venomous combination of media, marketing and peer pressure. These changes in modern culture are increasingly making our young people old before their time. This “pornification” of our youth is a silent epidemic that is robbing childhood from our children and creating a civilization of innocence lost.
    Jessica M. Manley
 
“Sometimes I think the only memories I have are those that I’ve created around photographs of me as a child. Maybe I’m creating my own life. I distrust any memories I do have. They may be fictions, too. “
 
 – Sally Mann 
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