Selma Portrait Project on display

Published 10:38 pm Monday, May 8, 2017

Kathryn Mayo has been back in her hometown for nearly four months now taking portraits of the people of Selma.

Mayo is a professor of photography at Cosumnes River College in California and has taken a sabbatical to photograph people through The Selma Portrait Project.

“I expected to come in and photograph people from Selma, and that’s the only expectation that I had,” Mayo said.

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“What I didn’t realize is that I was going to meet some of the most incredibly nice people I’ve ever met in my life. Some of the most thoughtful and helpful people. They came into my life at a time that I absolutely, positively needed it.”

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

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.

She and her husband Doug Winter have photographed more than 60 individuals or couples and will have the photographs on display for a short time in Selma.

“I really wasn’t expecting to talk to so many people that really care about Selma so much,” Kathryn said of interviewing the portrait participants.

“I thought that I would find a few people that felt that way, that were really passionate, but everybody that’s come through the doors of the studio have been so hopeful about Selma’s future and so invested in the outcome, that I feel that upon leaving, I have such a different idea about Selma than when I came back.”

In the show, there will be audio playing from the different people she photographed and interviewed, giving people a more intimate glimpse into the lives of Selmians.

“I think for me, I did not realize that I was going to feel so connected with each person,” Mayo said.

“I think I understand the culture of Selma a lot more than before I came back.”

The show will have an opening reception Thursday, May 11 from 5:30 until 7 p.m. at the old Sneakers building, 201 Broad Street. The show will continue Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Mayo suggests going back to see the show then for a quieter, more personal experience.

“I didn’t realize that I was going to learn as much about myself as I did,” Mayo said.

“I feel like I learned about who I am as a photographer, who I am as an artist, what the word home means to me and what it means to so many people that are here. I think that I’m going to leave a much different person than who I was when I got here.”