The Portraits of John Clark Mayden
by local artist John Clark Mayden.
Bronze Winner of the Foreword INDIES Award for Photography by FOREWORD Reviews
Baltimore native John Clark Mayden's photographs are distinctive to the city and specific to black life there, lingering on the front stoops and in the postage-stamp backyards of Charm City row houses. But these pictures are far from nostalgic. Informed by the photographer's deep commitment to both social justice and storytelling, they strip Baltimore of pretense and illusion and show the city's veins.
Baltimore Lives gathers 101 of Mayden's best photographs in print for the first time. Taken between 1970 and 2012, these photos illuminate the experiences of life throughout the predominantly African American city, capturing the relaxed intimacy of community, family, and the comfort of home in contrast to the harsh sting of social injustice, poverty, and crime. In Mayden's work, we meet people who are not expecting us. We bear witness to their lives—their emotions, gestures, and faces that often reveal more than they conceal. But regardless of the camera's presence, people go on waiting for the bus, catching a breeze on their front steps, slogging through the snow to work and school, and, every so often, returning the photographer's gaze with a sly grin, a backward glance, a curious frown.
Including a brief biography of John Clark Mayden written by his sister, Ruth W. Mayden, and an essay by art historian Michael Harris on how Mayden's work fits into larger trends of black photography, Baltimore Lives is a stunning visual history of the spatial and human elements that together make Baltimore's inner city.
About the Author
John Clark Mayden, an attorney in the Baltimore City Solicitor's office for thirty-four years, began photographing urban landscapes and people in 1970. His photographs have been exhibited at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum, the University of Pennsylvania's Sharp Gallery, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In 2008, he was a Syracuse University Artist-in-Residence at Light Work.
"A visual immensity in black and white that renders the stoic grandeur of half a century of everyday Baltimore. Capacious and gifted as a photographer and meticulous as a printmaker, Mayden harvests the soulful, complex interiors of his subjects and refines the gray shades that bind human experience."
"In these rich and penetrating photographs, John Clark Mayden captures the beauty and complexity of Baltimore. These works are both intimate and immense; they reveal individual stories and broader histories in ways that obliterate tired media narratives about the city. This is a remarkable collection and should not be missed."
"John Clark Mayden's moving photographs capture a slice of urban life over a forty-year period in a complex city represented by symbols of both joy and pain."
"By taking photographs of the people and places he encounters on the streets, John Clark Mayden frames the complexity of black life in Baltimore by illuminating a sense of belonging that he is tied to culturally and artistically. Mayden provides insight into a life of looking and the exchange of the gaze. The moments in this book are both quiet and lively; we see the exchange from a windowsill, stoops, and benches. The result is a fascinating series of portraits that shows us how he approaches life in his home city."
"John Clark Mayden photographically captures, in portraits and street scenes, a different urban reality, one that is rarely seen or acknowledged but is in need of serious consideration."
"From where I stand, there are two ways to visit Baltimore: hop off the train, bus, plane, or car and conduct your own damn walking tour, or look at John Clark Mayden's book, Baltimore Lives. That he has been at this—making significant, penetrating, and honest photographs of his hometown for more than forty years—comes as no surprise. Mayden is curious, driven, and accomplished. The pictures strike a sense of sincerity and clear vision right into the mind and heart of the viewer. People have taken pictures of their neighborhoods since photography was invented in 1839. Mayden approaches this task as if he is the neighborhood."
"From portraits to street photography, the connecting line is the richness of the city and its people, and Mayden presents an urban landscape in stunning black and white that any painter might themselves be tempted to capture."
|Johns Hopkins University Press|
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