Lost Boys: Amos Badertscher’s Baltimore

August 30–December 15, 2023

Lost Boys: Amos Badertscher’s Baltimore is the first career retrospective of artist Amos Badertscher (American, 1936–2023) in the United States. Between the 1960s and 2005, Badertscher documented hustlers, club kids, go-go dancers, drag queens, drug addicts, friends, and lovers who were part of LGBTQ+ life in Baltimore. A self-taught photographer, Badertscher worked on the fringes of the polite society into which he was born as an upper-middle class white Baltimorean. “Breaking all the rules of documentary photography,” as he has stated, he developed a signature style of spare portraits staged in his home studio. 

Taking his camera into the city’s clubs and gay bars, Badertscher recorded the shifting geographies and personalities of queer Baltimore pre-Stonewall and through the height of the AIDS epidemic. In the early 2000s, he captured the urban decay, economic devastation, and rampant drug use of sex workers in the city’s post-industrial landscape, in a body of work foregrounding aspects of Baltimore’s queer history that have rarely been acknowledged. Badertscher returns repeatedly to his personal photographic archive, inscribing his prints with handwritten notes on his subjects’ personal histories, filtered through his own recollections. This exhibition explores the power dynamics and desires embedded in his photographs, which memorialize people often marginalized by society.

Header image: Amos Badertscher, Voice Wafers in Time #1, 1975. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Amos Badertscher Estate.

Black and white photograph of a young man, cut up, and put back together

Public Programming

LGBTQ+ Oral Histories: Ethics and Practice

Panel Discussion

September 28, 2023, 5pm

Reception to follow

Featuring Dr. Kate Drabinski (UMBC), Dr. Joseph Plaster (Johns Hopkins University), Hunter O’Hanian (Independent scholar and curator), and students of the 2023 Interdisciplinary CoLab, “LGBTQ+ Oral History Project.” This event is Co-sponsored by the Department of Gender, Women’s, + Sexuality Studies, UMBC.

Image: Amos Badertscher, Portrait of a Hustler, 1978. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Amos Badertscher Estate.

Selected works

In Memoriam

Amos Badertscher | “Who Documented the Sexual Underground,” The New York Times August 9, 2023

Amos Badertscher | “Baltimore photographer who chronicled queer scene . . .,” The Baltimore Sun August 1, 2023

Amos Badertscher | “Remembering Amos Badertscher,” artnet News July 28, 2023

Amos Badertscher | “Amos Badertscher, photographer of Baltimore street life, 1936–2023,” ArtReview July 28, 2023

In Memoriam: Amos Badertscher (1936-2023) | CLAMP Art July 26, 2023


Ola Belle Reed: I’ve Endured

March 27—June 30, 2023

With a voice born in the mountains and shaped by the hard times she lived and saw, Ola Belle Reed (1916-2002) established herself as a significant and influential banjo picker, singer, and songwriter of old-time mountain music.

An estimated two million migrants, including Reed and her family, left Appalachia during the Great Depression in search of work in industrial centers of the northern United States. They brought with them ways of life, including musical traditions, that maintained a connection to their southern home and transformed the cultures of their adopted cities. 

In 1936, Reed started her career as a professional musician when she joined the North Carolina Ridge Runners, and refined her talent as a member of the New River Boys. With a powerful voice, lyrics that spoke authentically of her rural roots, and her straightforward musical approach, Reed became a groundbreaking solo artist whose passionate songs resonated in the folk-revival movement of the 1960s. As the co-host of a radio program and both a proprietor of and performer at local concert venues, Reed played a critical role in establishing and maintaining a vital bluegrass community along the Mason-Dixon Line. She was a culture bearer who created and helped conserve the unique musical traditions of Appalachia. Reed left an enduring legacy: her 1973 album Ola Belle Reed was added in 2019 to the National Recording Registry, her songs have become anthems of Appalachian life, and she is widely recognized as one of the most influential female bluegrass and folk musicians of all-time.

Co-curated by the Library Gallery’s Curator of Exhibitions Emily Cullen and Media and Communications Studies Professor Bill Shewbridge with Tim Newby, author of Baltimore: The Hard Drivin’ Sound & its Legacy (McFarland and Company, Inc. 2015).

Promotional poster for LP recording, Ola Belle Reed & Family, 1977. Offset lithography. Ola Belle Reed collection, Maryland Traditions Archives, Collection 122.

Public Programming

Film Screening: “I’ve Endured”: The music and legacy of Ola Belle Reed

Thursday May 11, 2023 5pm

AOK Library Gallery – UMBC

I’ve Endured”: The music and legacy of Ola Belle Reed is a new 45 minute documentary exploring the life and work of nationally recognized bluegrass and old-time musician Ola Belle Campbell Reed (1916-2002), directed by Bill Shewbridge.

Free and open to the public, reception to follow

“I’ve Endured,” a concert honoring the music and legacy of Ola Belle Reed

This concert will celebrate Ola Belle’s life and legacy by bringing together musicians and family members who worked with her, along with those who continue to carry on in the tradition of old-time music.

Friday June 2, 2023 8pm

Linehan Concert Hall – UMBC

Reserve free general admission tickets here

Featuring musicians Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, The Honey Dewdrops, Hugh Campbell, and Dave Reed, with Cliff Murphy.

Free and open to the public


Aaron Siskind: Formations

October 31, 2022–March 12, 2023

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903–1991) was one of the most influential figures in the development of photography as an art form during the twentieth century. This exhibition, drawn from UMBC’s Photography Collections, traces the formation of this artist’s unique photographic vision from early documentary works made in Harlem as a member of the New York Film and Photo League in the 1930s to his breakthrough explorations of abstraction in the 1940s and 1950s, which led to a sustained investigation of the camera’s capacity to frame new visual forms. The 55 works on display represent every period of the artist’s career, including architectural studies made on Martha’s Vineyard, the exuberant series, Terrors and Pleasures of Levitation, featuring images of divers’ bodies suspended in air, and impressions from his travels throughout Europe and Latin America. Through his photographs and his role as an educator, first at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and later at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Siskind made an indelible mark on the field, uncovering expressive possibilities from the raw material of reality

Cover Image: Aaron Siskind, Terrors and Pleasures of Levitation: No. 37, 1953. Gelatin silver print, 10 x 9 1/2 in. Library Purchase, The Photography Collections, UMBC (P78-26-001) © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

black and white abstract image of the side of a building
Aaron Siskind, New York, 1950. Gelatin silver print, 20 x 24in. Gift of Brough Schamp and Dr. Carole Newill, The Photography Collections, UMBC (P2021-16-002)
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Aaron Siskind, Paris 50, 1977. Gelatin silver print, 8 1/2 x 10in. Gift of Victor Schrager,
The Photography Collections, UMBC (P2021-31-100)
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Sonya Clark: Hair/Craft

October 31, 2022–March 12, 2023

Sonya Clark (b. 1967) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work explores issues of identity, race, cultural heritage, and collective memory. This exhibition presents five works in which Clark applies fiber-art techniques to the medium of hair, a material laden with cultural and metaphorical significance. In these works, strands of hair represent ancestral bonds, hairstyles connote intimacy and convey Black visibility and identity, and combs bare teeth to show how hair has been an instrument of political resistance across the African diaspora. Clark interweaves her material with historical, literary, and musical allusions ranging from the biography of Madam C. J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire, whose wealth derived from her business selling hair care products to Black women, to the hymn “Life Every Voice and Sing,” known as the unofficial Black National Anthem. Engaging craft traditions, Clark unravels the narrative threads that bind issues of contemporary importance to the past and refashions potent cultural symbols from everyday objects.

This exhibition was made possible in collaboration with Goya Contemporary Gallery and Sonya Clark

Cover Image: Sonya Clark, Hair Craft Project with Dionne, 2014. Pigment print on archival paper, 29 x 29 inches. Courtesy Goya Contemporary Gallery and Sonya Clark.

Public Programming

Harmonies of Liberty: Artist talk with Sonya Clark

Thursday, November 3, 4–6pm

In-person with simultaneous streaming via

In this talk, held in conjunction with the Dresher Center for the Humanities Daphne Harrison Lecture, artist Sonya Clark will discuss artwork inspired by the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” –work that she has produced in harmony with musicians that centers collaboration, innovation, craft, and design as a means to uplift suppressed voices.

Co-sponsored by the Dresher Center for the Humanities; the Department of Visual Arts; the Center for Innovation, Research, and Creativity in the Arts; and the Department of Africana Studies.

Image: Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, 2021. Diptych made of pigment print on punctured piano paper. 11 1/4 x 14in. each. Courtesy Goya Contemporary Gallery and Sonya Clark.

an afro wig with a block of combs in the center that have been woven through with colorful thread
Sonya Clark, For Colored Girls, A Rainbow, O1, 2019. Wig, cast plastic combs, wrapped thread, 12 x 12 x 3in. Courtesy Goya Contemporary Gallery & Sonya Clark.
two black women, one faces away from the camera to show an intricate hairstyle, the other faces the camera in the background, in soft focus
Sonya Clark, Hair Craft Project with Anita, 2014. Pigment print on archival paper, 29 x 29in. Courtesy Goya Contemporary Gallery and Sonya Clark.

A Black woman is standing outside and smiling at the camera. She is wearing a red wrap on her head and a black and white top

Biography: Sonya Clark is Professor of Art at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Previously, she was a Distinguished Research Fellow in the School of the Arts and Commonwealth Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) where she served as chair of the Craft/Material Studies Department from 2006 until 2017. In 2016, she was awarded a university-wide VCU Distinguished Scholars Award. Her work has been exhibited in over 350 museum and galleries in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia. She is the recipient of a United States Artists Fellowship, a Pollock Krasner award, an 1858 Prize, an Art Prize Grand Jurors Award, and an Anonymous Was a Woman Award. Most recently, she was an inaugural recipient of the Black Rock Senegal Residency Fellowship.

Photo by Andrew Smith


Prison Nation

August 22–October 14

Most prisons and jails across the United States do not allow prisoners to have access to cameras. At a moment when an estimated 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the U.S., 3.8 million people are on probation, and 870,000 former prisoners are on parole, how can images tell the story of mass incarceration when the imprisoned don’t have control over their own representation? How can photographs visualize a reality that disproportionately affects people of color, and, for many, remains outside of view? Coinciding with Aperture Magazine’s issue, “Prison Nation,” this exhibition addresses the unique role photography plays in creating a visual record of this national crisis, despite the increasing difficulty of gaining access inside prisons.

Since its early years, photography has been used to create and reinforce typologies of criminality, often singling out specific groups of people. Today, it is essential for photographers to provide urgent counterpoints and move beyond simplistic descriptions of the “criminal” or the imprisoned. Much of the work gathered here—from a recently discovered archive at San Quentin in California to portraits of prisoners participating in a garden program at Rikers Island in New York City or performing a passion play at Louisiana’s Angola prison, a facility located on the site of a former slave plantation—underscores the humanity and individuality of those incarcerated. Some projects explore the prison as an omnipresent feature of the American landscape, often serving as a local economic engine, or delve into the living conditions and social systems of prisons, while others address the difficult process of reentering society after incarceration. One series was produced in prison: Jesse Krimes made hundreds of image transfers with prison-issued soap while he served a five-year sentence.

Incarceration impacts all of us. Americans, even those who have never been to a prison or had a relative incarcerated, are all implicated in a form of governance that uses prison as a solution to many social, economic, and political problems. Empathy and political awareness are essential to creating systemic change—and through this exhibition, and the accompanying series of public programs, “Prison Nation” may provoke us to see parts of ourselves in the lives of those on the inside.

Prison Nation is organized by Aperture Foundation, New York. Nicole R. Fleetwood and Michael Famighetti, curators.

This exhibition was made possible with lead support from the Ford Foundation. Additional generous support was provided by the Reba Judith Sandler Foundation.

Cover Image: Stephen Tourlentes, Wyoming State Death House Prison, Rawlins, Wyoming, 2000, from the series Of Length andMeasures: Prison and the American Landscape, 1996–ongoing. Courtesy the artist andCarroll and Sons, Boston

Young woman in sweater holding her hand in front of her face

Public Programming

Panel Discussion: Art From the Inside

September 27th, 5-7pm

Lorenzo Steele Jr., Lynn Cazabon, Oletha DeVane and Tadia Rice will discuss their experiences working with incarcerated individuals and the importance of art in giving a face to those behind bars.

Zora J Murff, Megan at 16, 2014, from the series Corrections, 2013–15. Courtesy the artist.

Four young men pose for the camera in stylish clothes
Jamel Shabazz, Pretrial detainees all part of the “House Gang” (sanitation workforce) pose in the day room of their housing area, Rikers Island, 1986. Courtesy the artist.
Five men pose behind a drum set. One rests his arms on an electric bass guitar
Photographer unknown, Prison Rock Band, San Quentin State Prison, June 26, 1975.Courtesy Nigel Poor, San Quentin Archive, and Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

North Pole Narratives: Photographs from the Wendorff Collection on Robert E. Peary

Beginning in the sixteenth century many nations embarked on a mission to find the Northwest Passage, a sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that would facilitate efficient travel around North America. As explorers reached increasingly northern extremes in the nineteenth century, a different goal  materialized: that of being the first person to set foot on the geographic North Pole. American explorer Robert E. Peary (1856-1920) claimed to have clinched this title on April 6, 1909. North Pole Narratives revisits Peary’s Arctic expeditions through photographs in UMBC’s Wendorff Collection.

Robert E. Peary. Permanent monument erected at Cape Columbia to mark the point of departure and return of the North Pole sledge party. ca. 1909. Gelatin silver print. The Photography Collections of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (P78-118-087).

Cover Photo: Robert E. Peary. Sledging. ca. 1886-1909. Collodion print. The Photography Collections of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (P78-118-126).

Robert E. Peary. Family group of Peary Caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi) arranged by “frozen taxidermy” and photographed by flashlight. ca. 1886-1909. Gelatin silver print. The Photography Collections of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (P79-01-021).

Captured between 1891-1909, these photographs document landscapes and geological forms, Arctic flora and fauna, Peary’s expedition team and equipment, as well as candid scenes and ethnographic studies of Inuit people. Used to illustrate published accounts of Peary’s journey, the photographs bearing his editing marks reveal how the explorer, his publishers, and ghostwriters shaped the narrative of Peary’s achievement. Like many subjects they depict, the photographs were pressed into serving a singular purpose- fulfilling a colonialist fantasy of discovery and conquest of the North Pole in which Peary was the triumphant hero.

The success of Peary’s mission was due to his adoption of Inuit technologies, methods, and equipment, and to the Inughuit (Polar Inuit of Greenland) who traveled with his team to the North Pole. 

Robert E. Peary. Pinnacle Near the Shore. ca 1886-1910. Gelatin silver print. The Photography Collections of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (P87-118-143).

Rereading these images in light of changing societal values and information uncovered since 1909, this exhibition exposes the role of photography in writing history.

Robert E. Peary. Henson with Raven and Blue Fox. ca. 1886-1897. Gelatin silver print. The Photography Collections of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (P78-118-127).

A note on the captions:

This exhibition considers the construction of narratives through photographs, specifically those used to illustrate Northward over the ‘Great Ice’ (1898) and The North Pole (1910), two published accounts of Robert E. Peary’s Arctic exploration. The captions that accompany the photographs in these books were written by Peary, his ghostwriters—including novelist and poet Elsa Barker and journalist A. E. Thomas—and his publishers. As a result, some of the language presented here reflects the culture and context in which these historical documents were created, and may be racist, harmful, or offensive. 

We are aware of the importance of language and its effect on users and viewers of our materials and those represented within them. We have chosen to follow the Library & Archives of Canada’s “Writing titles for descriptions of Indigenous-related archival materials” guidance. When the caption or title is problematic, we have supplied a title that respects Indigenous peoples’ rights and cultures. The supplied title will be enclosed in square brackets. The original caption (derived from Peary’s publications or annotations on the prints) will follow in italics. We have also supplied titles in brackets for photographs that do not have original captions. 

The presentation of this exhibition is supported by a project grant from the Baltimore County Commission on the Arts & Sciences and an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Libby Kuhn Endowment Fund, as well as individual contributions.

Installation views by Research Graphics at UMBC


Louie Palu: Distant Early Warning

Distant Early Warning, a multi-year project (2015-2018) by Canadian/American photojournalist Louie Palu, provides a look at the evolving militarization in the North American Arctic driven by invented narratives and imagined threats. Now, decades after the end of the Cold War, debates have emerged over more efficient shipping routes, opportunities for resource extraction and the future of the Arctic related to climate change. Along with the six other Arctic nations (Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden), the United States and Canada are maneuvering to assert and defend their claims over the territory. Consequently, some Indigenous communities in the region are slowly coming face to face with increased geo-political activity and tourism. This exhibition examines operations of power and bears witness to a culture of fear and hyper-preparedness as we brace for an unknown future.

Palu’s work was supported by funding from the John Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Geographic Magazine, and Pulitzer Center. The presentation of this exhibition is supported by a project grant from the Baltimore County Commission on the Arts & Sciences and an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Libby Kuhn Endowment Fund, as well as individual contributions.

Ice block installation by Louie Palu at SXSW at the Harry Ransom Center in 2019. Photo © Louie Palu

Public Programming

Participatory Installation & Panel Discussion: Geopolitics and Geology in the Arctic

Monday April 4, 2022 at the AOK Library Gallery

Installation: noon-5pm

Panel discussion: 5pm

Free and open to the public, reception to follow

Ice block installation by Louie Palu at SXSW at the Harry Ransom Center in 2019. Photo © Louie Palu

Once considered nearly impenetrable, the Arctic is losing roughly 21,000 square miles of ice each year and warming faster than any other place on the planet. As climate change melts its icy armor, the region is taking on strategic importance. This panel discussion explores contemporary geopolitics and geology in the Arctic from a variety of artistic, scholarly, and scientific perspectives. Topics include: new scientific methods for measuring and analyzing the influence of sea ice thickness on the climate, the future of national competition and claims over the Arctic, and impact of climate change on the indigenous communities in the region.

Join us before the panel discussion for a participatory installation of photographs from Distant Early Warning encased in blocks of ice in the plaza outside the Albin O. Kuhn Library and in a hands-on display in the Library Gallery.


Louie Palu (bio below)

Dr. Nathan Kurtz is the Chief of NASA’s Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite mission, and UMBC alum (PhD Atmospheric Physics, 2009). His research involves remote sensing of the polar regions with an emphasis on the use laser and radar altimetry data to study the impact of sea ice on the climate. He has traveled to both the Arctic and Antarctic numerous times as part of ship-based and airborne field campaigns.

Dr. Brian Grodsky is a Professor of Comparative Politics and Chair of the Political Science Department at UMBC. His research interests include various aspects of democratization and human rights, as well as the politics of disaster response and climate change. His books include, The Costs of Justice (University of Notre Dame Press 2010); Social Movements and the New State: The Fate of Pro-Democracy Organizations When Democracy is Won (Stanford University Press 2012); and The Democratization Disconnect (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

Person lying in ice in Arctic landscape
A Canadian Ranger lies in the ice on the shore of Clyde Inlet training for search and rescue operations in Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada. (mandatory credit: photo by © Louie Palu
Two soldiers in winter gear walk on Ice covered plane wreckage
On reconnaissance outside Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island, Nunavut, Canada Arctic Operations Advisors walk on the wreckage of an airplane in temperatures below minus 50 degrees Celsius (-58 F). © Louie Palu

Louie Palu is a photographer and filmmaker whose work has examined social political issues, such as human rights and conflict for over 30-years. He is a 2016 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow and was awarded the 2019 Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions In Portraiture. His work has examined topics such as the war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, drug war in Mexico and changing geopolitics of the Arctic. His last four publications deal with how narratives can be reshaped by changing the sequence of images including in his deconstructed book Front Towards Enemy (2017, Yoffy Press). His work has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, BBC, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and El Pais. His work is held in numerous collections including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and National Gallery of Art. His films have been broadcast internationally and screened at numerous festivals including the Munich and Barcelona Documentary Film Festivals.

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Louie Palu
5:00 pm (EST)
February 22, 2022

Register here (via Webex)


Peggy Fox: Morality Tales

Peggy Fox’s career as a photographer spans assignment-based work and her own fine art practice. For clients, she produced picture stories aimed at conveying a narrative within a single image. Meanwhile, her photographs recording street life in Baltimore, documenting the vanishing towns of Maryland’s Patapsco Valley, and chronicling her extensive travels across the globe provided opportunities to tell stories shaped by personal encounters and characterized by a strong sense of place. Fox’s experiments in collage expand the existing imagery of those photographs. Combined with transparencies, layered upon aluminum ground, and embellished with hand-worked details or digital manipulation, the resulting images engage the surrealist tendencies of collage to render reality into fantasy and to juxtapose subjects in new, unexpected ways. Certain motifs recur across the body of work, including enshrouded, falling, or diving figures; architectural features of arches, portals, and stairways; and references to religious iconography, mythology, and physics. This virtual presentation is structured around three groupings, intended as three possible unfolding paths that emphasize the inherent narrativity of the artist’s constructions. These sets of collages are not prescriptive, but are rather evocative of emotions, impressions, and symbols. Viewed as “morality tales,” the images conjure stories but remain ambiguous, their lessons open to multiple interpretations. 

* The images below will scroll automatically. They can also be advanced using the arrows at right and left. To pause the slideshow and to view titles, hold the cursor over the image.

The work begins with my black and white photographs. It grows out of a desire to personalize and elaborate on these initial images by joining them, collaging them, and painting on them to enlarge the story. The particular quality of the photographs is integral to, and is the dominant feature of, the images.

As an independent contract photographer I was part of a genre of “what makes a one shot, picture story?” There were parameters, there was an approach. There were stories to be told, in schools and hospitals. It was very traditional storytelling taken to the highest level. This work, while honoring that, is storytelling of a different nature.

Peggy Fox studied painting at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. After relocating to Baltimore and serving as director of the art department at St. Paul’s School, she embarked on a career as an independent photographer,  balancing her time between assignment photography and fine art. 

Early in her career, Fox was featured in a one-person show at the Baltimore Museum of Art. From 1987 to 1996 she developed Lost in the Cosmos, a 10-by-200-foot mural executed in porcelain enamel on steel and commissioned by the Maryland Transit Administration for the Johns Hopkins Hospital Metro station. 

In 2009 her book with writer Alison Kahn, Patapsco: Life along Maryland’s Historic River Valley, was published by The Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago. She also had a solo show at The Atlantic Gallery in New York City in 2012. She has received two Maryland Arts Council grants and her work has been exhibited nationally.


Séance: Photographs by Shannon Taggart

August 31–December 17, 2021

For the past twenty years American artist Shannon Taggart (born 1975) has documented Spiritualist practices and communities in the United States, England, and Europe. The resulting body of work, Séance, examines the relationship of Spiritualism to human celebrity, its connections to art, science, and technology, and its intrinsic bond with the medium of photography. This exhibition presents forty-seven haunting images from the series, revealing the emotional, psychological, and physical dimensions of Spiritualism in the 21st century. 

Spiritualism is a religion born in nineteenth-century America whose adherents believe in communication with spirits, often transmitted through the figure of a medium who receives psychic messages from the dead. Not coincidentally, photography was invented at the same historical moment, when the new technology was revered for its ability to faithfully record reality. Photography thus became a preferred medium of scientific documentation capable of rendering invisible phenomena visible, such as in astronomical photography, X-Rays, and microscopy. For Spiritualists, photography was a tool for revealing the existence of spirits, but for non-believers the ghostly forms that materialized in spirit photographs proved nothing more than darkroom trickery. While this double-sided coin of belief and skepticism haunts the histories of both photography and Spiritualism, Taggart’s photographs do not take sides. The images that comprise Séance are characterized by open-mindedness and empathy toward their subjects, many of whom are brought to Spiritualism through grief and a desire to reconnect with lost loved ones.

The photographs on display explore the communities and phenomena associated with Spiritualism, including séance circles, mediumship, and the objects and technological devices used to aid communication with spirits. Among the most arresting images are those that chart the artist’s quest to capture ectoplasm, a supernatural substance that is paradoxically both spiritual and material. Often made in darkened rooms, the photographs are characterized by otherworldly blurs, chance flares and orbs, and entrancing portraits cast in glowing colors. Taking on the role of participant observer, Taggart bears witness with her camera to an unseen world of belief lying just beyond the fringes of everyday reality.

Man holding filmy glowing orb

Public Program

Artist’s Talk: Shannon Taggart

Thursday October 14, 2021

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Portrait of artist Shannon Taggart

Shannon Taggart is an artist and author based in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Her photographs have been exhibited and featured internationally, including within the publications TIME, New York Times Magazine, Discover, and Newsweek. Her work has been recognized by Nikon, Magnum Photos and the Inge Morath Foundation, American Photography and the Alexia Foundation for World Peace. Taggart’s monograph, SÉANCE (Fulgur Press, 2019) was listed as one of TIME magazine’s ‘Best Photobooks of 2019.’

This exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Pensacola Museum of Art.

The exhibition is curated by Beth Saunders, Curator and Head of Special Collections at UMBC, and Anna Wall, Chief Curator of the Pensacola Museum of Art.  

The presentation of this exhibition at UMBC is supported by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Libby Kuhn Endowment Fund, as well as individual contributions.

View exhibition prospectus here

Additional Venues:

Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola, FL, September 16–December 4, 2022

University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art, Cedar Falls, IA, January 7-February 24, 2023


End of the Road

Photographs by Brea Souders Selected poems by Lia Purpura

Souders began making the photographs that comprise End of the Road in March 2020 while living in rural upstate New York. The black-and-white photographs capture candid glimpses of visitors walking to the cul-de-sac at the end of a gravel road viewed through the mesh of a window screen or through curtains of leaves and branches. Her subjects variously walk, rest, hold hands, kiss, and stop to reflect, completing a series of ordinary actions during an extraordinary year. Photographing these strangers—who became unknowing companions—was an almost daily ritual for the artist, generating creative inspiration during a year spent sheltered in place.

The passage of time unfolds in these photographs through seasonal changes and through the contemplative perambulations of Souders’s subjects. Leaves sprout and sunlight casts bold shadows, while in turn, sweaters and mittens replace airy dresses and shorts. Some visitors return to the End of the Road repeatedly, while others make a momentary, but singular, impression. The photographs thus convey a heightened awareness to one’s surroundings and to nature that has become a common experience during the pandemic. In their intimacy, they express the longing for human connection that has defined our shared isolation. Each photograph is a chance encounter that sparks curiosity about the subject, what brought them to the End of the Road, and where they will go from here.

This virtual presentation features images from End of the Road alongside poems by UMBC writer-in-residence Lia Purpura from her book It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Penguin, 2015). Purpura has noted of this collection of poems, “I am interested in paying attention to the act of looking itself, an act which is almost always full of contradiction, surprise, and mystery.” This statement could equally describe Souders’s photographs, which, through their clandestine framing and sharp observation, elevate quotidian details to totems of coincidence. Likewise, Purpura’s attentive poems abound with incident, engendering expansive ideas from the brief container of their form. Here, photographs and poems, selected in collaboration between artist and author, walk together in tandem, illuminating shared themes and inviting additional connections and reflections.

*Images and text scroll automatically below. Hold your cursor over an image to pause scrolling and to move backwards and forwards in the sequence.

Public Program

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Brea Souders and Lia Purpura in Conversation
12:00pm (noon EST)
April 22, 2021

Register here (via Webex)

Black and white photo of man in overalls walking down dirt roadBlack and white photo of person in a white dress holding a glass, partially obscured by tree limbBlack and white photo of person walking behind foliageBlack and white photo of person jogging along dirt roadBlack and white photo of young man holding an animal to his chestPoem: Probability Most coincidences are not miraculous, but way more common than we think – it’s the shiver of noticing being central in a sequence of events that makes so much seem wild and rare – because what if it wasn’t? Astonishment’s nothing without your consent.Black and white photo of a man carrying a ladder in natureBlack and white photo of couple kissing viewed through tree limbsBlack and white photo of woman with face obscured by foliageBlack and white photo os silhouette of a figure holding a dog leashBlack and white photo of woman in shorts walking alone on a gravel road; she grasps her arm with her handPoem: Sunday Signs come. For what I don’t know. To be one in a vastness without meaning, except for making something of it, except for it being a conversationBlack and white photo of two women walking down the road; one wears a shirt that says Black and white photo of a group of youthsBlack and white photo of a man walking, wearing american flag print shortsBlack and white phot of a woman walking in shadows of trees and leavesBlack and white photo of two men walking through foliagePoem: Relativity Shade can chill or relieve and sun comfort or oppress, depending on what you need to shed or retain, which is nothing as simple as sin being dark, and grace, light. Filaments in a web can be both invisible and bright. Each thing’s its own partner, each always both, depending on where you stand, not so central, not so always commanding.Black and white photo of a woman standing amidst foliageBlack and white photo of a woman obscured by leavesBlack and white photo of a couple holding hands and walking in natureBlack and white photo of two figures standing on the road looking into natureBlack and white photo of person bent over to look at something in the roadPoem: Red Leaf It’s precious little warmth the trees are giving, muddled with last greens, addled with vines and that red, a new cry at dusk – oh mind where all things freshly darkened meet.Black and white photo of man walking alone in natureBlack and white photograph of man walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two men walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two men walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two girls walking on snowy gravel roadPoem: Future Perfect Where you were before you were born, and where you are when you’re not anymore might be very close. Might be the same place, though neither is as slippery as being here but imagining where you will have been – that point where things land, are finished, over, and gone but not yet.

Brea Souders is a visual artist working primarily with photography. She has exhibited in the US and internationally, including solo exhibitions with Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, Bruce Silverstein Gallery and Abrons Art Center in New York. She has received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, a residency with the Millay Colony and a fellowship with the National Arts Club. Features on her work have been published in the New Yorker, ARTnews, the Jeu de Paume Magazine, and New York Times. Souders’ work is included in many survey publications, including The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Thames & Hudson; Feelings: Soft Art, Rizzoli and Photography is Magic, Aperture.

Lia Purpura is the author of nine collections (essays, poems, translations.) A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, she is a Guggenheim, NEA, and Fulbright Fellow, and has been awarded four Pushcart Prizes, among others. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, Agni, Emergence, and elsewhere. She is the Writer in Residence at UMBC, and has taught at conferences, workshops, prisons, and in communities and MFA programs throughout the country. It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (poems) and All the Fierce Tethers (essays) are her latest collections.

End of the Road/ Hope

To celebrate the online exhibit of End of the Road and the collaboration between artist and poet, the AOK Library Gallery has produced a limited edition booklet, End of the Road/ Hope. Designed by Peggy Re, the publication features a selection of images from Souders’s series along with a poem by Purpura.

Register here to receive a free copy of End of the Road/ Hope. Booklets will be produced in a limited edition of 500 copies and mailed in May 2021.