A young girl floats on a glassy lake, her hair swirling in tentacles of spirals around her head. A proud boy with a bloody nose defiantly folds his thin arms across his bare chest. A girl dances naked on a tabletop like an angelic ballerina in the soft glow of a setting sun. These are the images of Sally Mann, a Virginia artist who has aroused both passion and concern for the young subjects of her photographs–her own children. Since her first series nearly twenty years ago, Mann has explored the dichotomies of beauty and reality, and her controversial work has caused many viewers to question their own values.

What Christian televangelist Pat Robertson finds an exploitation of childhood innocence, Mann and her husband and three children see as a pure and honest expression of life on their southern farm. The art world agrees–Mann’s photographs have been displayed in books and galleries across the country, and in 2001 she was named the “Best Living Photographer” by Time magazine. Still, Mann and her family have paid a price for her intimate and provocative art. Blood Ties examines the lives and voices behind these compelling photographs, adding a unique dimension to the powerful and complex moments Mann creates and captures.