Night Blooming Cereus
Updated: Apr 12, 2018
I love this image, the intensity and powerful symbolism of the flower makes this a truly inspiring photograph and my favourite piece of Sally Mann’s work. Mann often captures images which have a haunting effect on the viewer, ‘Night Blooming Cereus’ is a good example of this. The flower around the girls neck is known as a Night Blooming Cereus, hence the name.
These flowers are short lived and some species of this flower bloom only once a year for a single night. This clever symbolism is representational of the young girl photographed. Both the flower and the young girl will only have one chance to bloom, it will be beautiful but short lived. Because of this we understand how important the experience is and how we should treasure it.
The child's face is cropped above the mouth, protecting her identity. The flower has also been carefully positioned to cover her innocence in an area of her body that society will later expect her to cover. There is a beauty apparent in the imperfections of the white petals and the tonal contrast of the flowers against the darker skin. The symmetrically balanced photograph displays two flowers which mirror one another, laying on the child’s chest.
The flower which is premature has yet to bloom symbolising the young prematurity of the girl, she is not yet a woman. The placement of the flower around her neck symbolises a constant burden and reminder of her youth, suggestive of the the girl’s desire to grow up. Once we are older we realise and regret that this was a time in our lives we should have treasured for as long as we could. This will influence me further into looking at symbolism and the representations they contextually they hold.