Maude Schuyler Clay Biography

Maude Schuyler Clay was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. After attending the University of Mississippi and the Memphis Academy of Arts, she assisted the 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.

Maude Schuyler Clay started her color portrait series “Mississippi History” in 1975 when she came upon her first Rolleiflex 2¼ camera. At the time, she was living and working in New York and paid frequent visits to her native Mississippi Delta whose landscape and people continued to inspire her. Over the next twenty-five years, the project, which began as “The Mississippians,” evolved into an homage to Julia Margaret Cameron. A definitive pioneer of the art of photography, Cameron lived in Victorian England and began her photographic experiments in 1863, after receiving the gift of a camera. The expressive, allegorical portraits of her friends and family as well as Maude Schuyler Clay’s artful approach to capturing the essence of light are the driving forces behind Clay’s nostalgic recollection of carefree moments of family life and play in Mississippi in the 1980s and ’90s. 

When Maude Schuyler Clay 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, Maude Schuyler Clay began a series of black and white photographs of the Delta landscape. She received the Mississippi Art Commission’s Individual Artist Grant in 1998. The University Press of Mississippi published her widely recognized monograph DELTALAND in 1999, which received the Mississippi Arts and Letters Award in 2000. Maude Schuyler Clay was the Photography Editor of the literary magazine The Oxford American from 1998-2002. 

Maude Schuyler Clay’s photography is 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. Maude Schuyler Clay continues to live in the Delta with her husband, photographer Langdon Clay, and three children.