November 2012


Chiristmas morning, Emma & Schuyler

Artist’s Statement

I started working on the color portrait series when I got my first Rolleiflex 2 ¼ x 1 ¼ camera in 1975. Thus began The Mississippians which evolved into Low Light, which I am now calling Her Circle.

In all these varied incarnations of this project, I have been inspired by the work of Julia Margaret Cameron (1859-1879) who worked in photography from 1864 until her death. [Clive Bell, writer and nephew of Virginia Woolf, once said of Mrs. Cameron: “Never, I think, did she fall into the vulgar error of supposing what the average man sees is all there is to be seen.”]

For one of my portraits to be successful, I must have the implicit “permission” of my subject(s). My pictures are as much about the relationship we forge, often in a very short time, as they are about the calm order I strive for in form and content.

I prefer to take photographs in the natural low light of early morning or late afternoon – “in the gloaming”, as the Scots called it – the last rays of eerie orangey light that blanket the evening, before the sun disappears for the night. I use stark black-and-white for my landscape photographs. In that work, it is my intention to record the Mississippi Delta.


Maude Schuyler Clay was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. After attending the University of Mississippi and the Memphis Academy of Arts, she assisted photographer William Eggleston. She moved to New York City and worked at LIGHT Gallery, and then as a photography editor and photographer for Esquire, Fortune, Vanity Fair, and other publications.

When Maude returned to live in the Mississippi Delta in 1987, she continued her color portrait work, for which she received the Mississippi Arts and Letters award for photography in 1988, and in 1992. In 1993, she began a series of black-and-white photographs of the Delta landscape. In 1988, Maude received the Mississippi Art Commission’s Individual Artist Grant.

The University Press of Mississippi published her monograph Delta Land in 1999, which received the Mississippi Arts and Letter Award in 2000. She was the Photography Editor of literary magazine The Oxford American from 1998-2002. Her work appears in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The National Museum for Women in the Arts, among others. Her book, Delta Dogs, with a foreword by Brad Watson, will be published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2013. Maude continues to live in the Delta with her husband and three children.