City People: Black Baltimore in the Photographs of John Clark Mayden


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Read the gallery guide here.

This past spring, I began my curatorial fellowship work with Sheridan Library. The library recently acquired about 100 prints from local street photographer, John Clark Mayden, which they sought to display in both an exhibit and book, Baltimore Lives: The Portraits of John Clark Mayden

Before I curated a small exhibit for the Rachel Flowers’ Centennial Celebration in September 2018; however, this was my first large scale exhibition. Teaching is one thing, but I’ve always enjoy diving into public history work. I see myself keeping a foot in the community and the other in academia-so this fellowship offered me a chance to dive into museum work.

With my background in digital humanities, I decided to conduct an interview with Mayden to display within the exhibit and a StoryMap with ArcGIS to dive deeper into the images taken across Baltimore.

An Interview With John Clark Mayden


Through this exhibit, I was able to work closely with Mayden. Now, we did not allow him to have much input in the selection of prints, wall colors, etc., but he agreed to do a short documentary with me. I arrived to his home on a hot summer day and was able to film the oral interview and take a few video clips of Mayden working in his darkroom. You can watch the short documentary below. You can read the entire interview here.

StoryMap—City People: Black Baltimore in the Photographs of John Clark Mayden


Mayden, born and raised in Baltimore, has documented Black life in the city through his street photography since the 1970s. For people to visualize where he took his photographs, I created an accompanying StoryMap to the exhibit. This StoryMap highlighted the places/areas where Mayden shot the featured prints as well as significant places for him–where he grew up, his schools, and place of worship. View the StoryMap here.

CT: When did you start doing street photography? Did you start immediately when you purchased your first camera?

JM: Absolutely! As soon as I bought the first camera, I went out on the street and I started doing street photography because I thought, what do I want to photograph? This. I went out there to do it. I don’t remember the very first pictures that I took. I guess I could look and see if book one [of my negative notebooks] shows me my very first images. I used to harass my mother and my grandmother and shoot in my neighborhood. I’ve always been a walker, and I would park my car a distance and walk. Walk too far and have to walk all the way back. That’s always been my pattern. So, I would do that and enjoy seeing neighborhoods and stuff. Because you don’t see anything unless you walk it.

The exhibit closed on March 1st; however, you can still view the digital components of City People: Black Baltimore in the Photographs of John Clark Mayden. Let me know your thoughts below.




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