Portrait project captures essence of Queen City

Kathryn Mayo grew up in Selma but has been away working as a professor of photography at Cosumnes River College in California.

She has come back for a short period of time to tell about the lives of people in her hometown through The Selma Portrait Project.

“I’ve always loved storytelling, and, in my mind, photographs are just visual stories,” Mayo said. “I wanted to come back to where I’m from. I wanted to tell the story of where I’m from.”

Mayo works with a unique photographic technique that was used in the mid to late 1800s, called a wet plate collodion ambrotype.

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In 1851, Fredrick Scott Archer invented the ambrotype, which is a photograph created on glass.

Mayo said ambrotypes are made on glass with chemistry that must remain wet during the preparation, exposure and processing of the image.

Mayo, who graduated from Dallas County High School, the University of Alabama and Tulane University, first fell in love with photography while taking alternative photography processes classes while at Alabama.

“I just fell in love,” she said. “Really one of the things that spurred my love of photography were those classes.”

Mayo took a sabbatical to come to Selma for the project with her husband Doug Winter.

“I was reaching the point where I needed some inspiration of my own,” Mayo said. “Living in California, you get to see the perception that so many people have of Selma. Some are correct. some are incorrect. I thought what better way to tell the story of a place than with photographs of the people who live there.”

Mayo said anyone with a connection to Selma is invited to participate. She said it takes about an hour to create the photograph. A few plates will be made during the session.

Along with capturing a portrait, participants will be asked to have a brief interview about experiences in Selma. The images will be shown as a body of work at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia in April and Mayo said she hopes to be able to publish the images in a book.

Mayo can be reached at Kathryn@kathrynmayo.com or (916) 532-0728. The studio is located at 96 Cahawba Road, at the corner of Wheeler and Cahawba, across from Portwood Rentals.

To keep up with the project or try to be involved, search for Kathryn Mayo on Facebook.

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