Shae McCoy: West Baltimore Ruins

As described by the artist, West Baltimore Ruins is “a visual story told by West Baltimore’s daughter.” McCoy created the series between 2018 and 2020 as a means of documenting the architectural landscape of the neighborhood in which she was raised, where an estimated one third of buildings are now abandoned. In addition to her digital camera, McCoy also used a cell phone camera to record her impressions, noting that its mobility and discretion enables photographs to be made easily while on the move. The resulting images take the viewer on a walk through the neighborhoods of West Baltimore as viewed through McCoy’s observant eyes,  capturing the vibrant colors of empty row house facades, the charm of the area’s neglected historical architecture, unruly vegetation reclaiming empty houses, and signs of encroaching gentrification.  

As physical remains of the past, ruins are typically associated with disuse and decay. McCoy’s photographs point toward the causes behind this deterioration in West Baltimore: housing discrimination, urban blight, voucher programs that have relocated residents rather than reinvigorated neighborhoods, and lack of investment in commercial renewal that has benefitted other parts of the city. By turning attention—and her camera—to this landscape, McCoy also enlivens it. Her connections to the area and interviews with residents that helped shape the project invest the photographs with a personal perspective, preserving the memories and histories embedded in the vanishing architectural structures of West Baltimore.

This virtual presentation displays a selection of images and interviews from the project. Photographs from the series have been presented both in black and white and color on the artist’s Instagram and the entire series is published in McCoy’s 2021 book West Baltimore Ruins.  

Public Program

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Shae McCoy in Conversation with Dr. Ashley Minner (UMBC)
12:00 noon
March 11, 2021

Register here (via Webex)

West Baltimore Ruins

West Baltimore has aggressively opened my eyes to the irresponsibility and disservice of city officials done to urban black communities. Ironically, these communities once thrived with culture and now they decay as new developments await.

Shae McCoy, West Baltimore Ruins (2021)

This project is an in-your-face first account of what Baltimore residents in these mentioned communities experience everyday. It is an artistic call-out for city officials to see the cause of their neglect.

Shae McCoy, West Baltimore Ruins (2021)

In 2018, then mayor of Baltimore Catherine Pugh targeted corner stores in West Baltimore as sites of drug dealing and crime that did little to benefit the community. However, corner stores and convenience stores often provide basic necessities to residents in areas defined as food deserts and where commercial service establishments are otherwise lacking. McCoy notes that the first sign of gentrification in her neighborhood was the closure of the corner stores.

In the 1950s and 60s, Sandtown was known as “Baltimore’s Harlem” where musicians like Diana Ross and Billie Holiday performed and where jazz legend Cab Calloway was born. After riots in 1968, the population began to decline and now one third of buildings in the neighborhood stand vacant. The neighborhood was locus for the 2015 Baltimore Uprising in response to the arrest and death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. Residents of the area report feeling harassed by police presence. 

I am no stranger to vacant houses. As a matter of fact, I still live next door to one in my current neighborhood of Park Heights. Many of the vacant houses in my old neighborhood of Sandtown served as playgrounds and meeting places for my friends and I as children.

West Baltimore Resident Otis Eldridge in Shae McCoy, West Baltimore Ruins (2021)

*Click images in galleries above to enlarge

Black and white portrait of Shae McCoy

Shae McCoy is a photographer based in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work has been featured in major publications such as Teen VogueCosmopolitan, EssenceBaltimore Magazine, and BMore Art and displayed on the Baltimore Museum of Art website and in the Joan Hisaoka Gallery in Washington DC. Shae is founder of the cultural blog and has interviewed actors, activists, community leaders, and politicians to creating a spotlight for local artists. Uncommonrealist was nominated for The Inaugural Southern Blogger Impact Awards in 2016 and featured on local platforms such as Docs Castle Media, and Undaground Radar Magazine. In 2018, the blog won an award for Best Entertainment Website.


McCoy interviewed current and former residents of West Baltimore during the making of this project. Their words and recollections appear in her book, creating a dialogue between her images and the community that calls these neighborhoods home.

Unique Mical Robinson, 31, Woodland Park Apartments.
Score Swayze, 29, 1411 Division Street.

About the book

Filmed by Shae McCoy. Edited by David Sebastiao. Music by Zadia.

West Baltimore Ruins is available to purchase here.


Zachary Z. Handler: ERRANDS

In response to stay-at-home orders issued by the State of Maryland on March 30, 2020, Baltimore-based photographer Zachary Z. Handler created ERRANDS, a portrait series documenting the shared shelter-in-place experiences of people around the globe.

Handler conducts portrait sessions remotely via FaceTime, and motivated by a desire to provide care while maintaining connections, every session begins with a conversation. Handler then places the iPhone on which his subject appears in unique tableaux created within the confines of his home using everyday objects and materials close at hand. The resulting photographs capture the joy realized through discovering something remarkable in an ordinary place and through connecting with others despite social distancing. Each ERRANDS portrait depicts more than one person:

in addition to the sitter, the artist’s presence is reflected in the objects and environment in which he stages the photographs. Handler has, to date, photographed 275 people from locations near and far: from Baltimore to San Francisco, from Germany to India. Like the pandemic, the project is still unfolding.

Inspired by the mobile phones on which the series depends and the improvisational aspect of the sessions, this presentation references the children’s game of ‘telephone,’ in which a message is whispered from one participant to the next. Each photograph in this presentation is related to the one preceding and following it in some way, whether through color palette, subject’s gesture, or an object that repeats across frames. This chain of association invites the viewer to participate in the search for connections.

Public Program

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Zachary Z. Handler
12:00 noon
February 18, 2021

Register here (via Webex)

* Click images in gallery above to enlarge

Zachary Z. Handler is a photographer based in Baltimore, Maryland. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he was a Linehan Artist Scholar, in 2003 and a Master of Arts Administration from Columbia University Teachers College in 2005. In addition to his work as a visual artist, he has constructed a career where the fields of healthcare and art education intersect to provide community and access programs to individuals who are D/deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind. He has also taught arts education classes nationally and internationally to D/deaf and Hard of Hearing youth in foster care.

Behind the Scenes of ERRANDS

Portrait depicting Samuel on iPhone
View of slide projector in the dark
Detail of Samuel's set

Inspiration & details from the set of Samuel’s portrait, from the series ERRANDS

Inspiration for Samuel’s portrait came from a scene in the 1977 Italian horror film Suspiria. The artist projected onto the set a slide modified through collage.

White curtains illuminated by a square of light
Detail of Samuel's set
Illuminated ens of slide projector
Detail of Samuel's set
Detail of Samuel's set
A scene from the film Suspiria

Constructing the set of Andy’s portrait, from the series ERRANDS

Andy, seen on an iPhone, chats with Handler as the artist places a Big Mac, carton of french fries, and large drink around the iPhone on which Andy appears. In a nod to artist Boo Ritson, the McDonald’s meal is covered in wet, dripping white paint.

Portrait of Greg
Close up view of knit shirt

Outtakes from Greg’s portrait session, from the series ERRANDS

Portrait of Greg
Greg, as seen on iPhone
Portrait of Greg

The presentation of this exhibition and public programming 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.


Antonio McAfee : Through the Layers, Pt. 2

The Magician, 2019
Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses
© Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist

January 27–March 13, 2020

Since 2011, Antonio McAfee has been making work influenced by historical portraiture of African Americans in the The Exhibition of American Negroes. Organized for the 1900 Paris World Exposition by W.E.B. Du Bois, the display functioned as a legislative, economic, and photographic survey of middle-class African Americans living in Georgia from 1850–1899. This ‘counter archive’ challenged racist assumptions steeped in pseudo-science, presenting proof of the vitality and upward social mobility of southern blacks. For his exhibition at UMBC, McAfee builds upon his earlier work to curate a selection of photographs from our archives that will be displayed alongside new works inspired by the historical images found in UMBC’s Special Collections.

Antonio McAfee is a photographer raised and based in Baltimore, MD. He received his BFA in Fine Art Photography from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Arts and Culture Management from the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa). Recent exhibition venues include University of Maryland, College Park’s Stamp Gallery, George Washington University’s Gallery 102 (Washington, DC), Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), and the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, MD.)

The Gem, 2019
Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses
© Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist
Young Man and Dog, 2019
Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses
© Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist
Third (3), 2019
Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses
© Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist
Robert Smalls, 2019
Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses
© Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist

Public program:

Thursday, February 27, 2020
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Art, Race, and the Archive:
Antonio McAfee in Conversation with Shawn Michelle Smith

Installation views

The presentation of this exhibition 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.


Experimentalist: The Art of Robert W. Fichter

Early Fitcher Drawing
Robert W. Fichter
Winged Flying Dog, 1979
Polaroid print
22 x 27 1/8 in.

August 28–December 18, 2019

Experimentalist: The Art of Robert W. Fichter presents the first retrospective of the artist’s career in over thirty years. Drawn from his archive at UMBC, the 55 works in this exhibition created between 1962 and 2006 highlight Fichter’s exploration of the human condition across photography, printmaking, and painting. Fichter employs shifting moods and mediums as well as wit, humor, and satire to deliver trenchant critiques of war, nuclear proliferation, and environmental disaster. Firmly rooting his expressive compositions in a strong sense of place—the surreal landscapes of his native Florida—Fichter presents a singular vision of humanity on the brink.

Medical Analysis, 1983 
Silver dye-bleach print 
Nature Returns, 1989 
Silver dye-bleach print 
Peace in the Kingdom, 1975 
Cyanotype, tempera, watercolor
Bones to Baby Gene Pool
“It’s just like life flashing before your eyes,” 1982  
Color lithograph
A New Photograph of a Successful Weapon of War, 1970 
Cyanotype, gum bichromate print 
Edward Teller Sez We Did It to Make the World Safe for Democracy! 
from the series Bones and Rock Garden Drawings, 1980  
Lithograph, watercolor 

Public Program

September 24, 5:00pm,

The Art of Robert W. Fichter:

Talks by Eileen Cowin, Adam Straus, and Tom Beck

The presentation of this exhibition 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.


El Sueño Americano/ The American Dream

5 Minutos archival inkjet print
Tom Kiefer
5 Minutos, 2018
Archival inkjet print
©Tom Kiefer

February 4 – May 23, 2019

El Sueño Americano/The American Dream features 59 photographs by Arizona-based artist Tom Kiefer depicting everyday objects carried by migrants detained after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Considered non-essential by U.S. Customs and Border Control and thus discarded, these personal belongings–from gloves to rosaries and wallets to water bottles–were valued by their owners for their utilitarian, spiritual, or sentimental value. In Kiefer’s graphically striking photographs, these items serve as traces of individual stories that humanize the current migrant crisis.

Tom Kiefer
Heart Assembly,2018
Archival inkjet print
©Tom Kiefer
Used with permission of the artist
Tom Kiefer
Archival inkjet print
©Tom Kiefer
Used with permission of the artist

Public Program

5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Artist Talk with Tom Kiefer

Reception to follow

Free & open to the public

Installation Views

The presentation of this exhibition 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.


Depth of Field: Acquisitions to UMBC’s Photography Collection, 2008-2018

Todd Forsgren
Adelaide’s Warbler (Setophaga adelaidae), 2009
From the series Ornithological Photographs
Inkjet print
Accession no. P2016-07-001
© Todd Forsgren, used with permission

August 29 – December 19, 2018

Depth of Field presents approximately one-hundred images acquired over the last ten years by UMBC’s Photography Collections through generous gifts from donors and artists. The photographs on view highlight the breadth and depth of the collection and illustrate the range of forms, technology, and artists that historically shaped the medium and are presently impacting its ongoing evolution.

Artists included:

Laurie Brown, Kristin Capp, Clarence Carvell, William Eggleston, Donna Ferrato, Robert Fichter, Todd Forsgren, Peggy Fox, Sally Gall, Ralph Gibson, Penny Harris, Sam Holden, Irina Ionesco, Walter Ioos, N. Jay Jaffee, Brian Jones, Nate Larson, Alen MacWeeney, Mary Ellen Mark, Dorothy Norman, David Seltzer, David Seymour, Steve Szabo, Barbara Traub, Peter Turnley, Robert Von Sternberg.

two women in subway
N. Jay Jaffee
Woman and Young Girl in Subway, 1951
Gelatin silver print
selenium toned Accession no. P2012-17-012
© The N. Jay Jaffee Trust, used with permission
young man standing
Studio of R. Yamamoto, Yokohama, Japan
U.S. Sailor Earnest Estens, of the U.S.S. South Dakota, early 20th Century Cabinet card,
Accession no. P2016-01-014

Barbara Traub
Free Cloud, 1995
Gelatin silver print
Accession no. 2013-02-016
© Barbara Traub, used with permission
portrait of a young woman
Lotte Jacobi
Marlene Dietrich, 1929
Accession no. P2013-31-014
© Lotte Jacobi Collection, UMBC
Abandoned house in the field
Steve Szabo
Goat House, Wolf Trap Creek, 1976
From the series Eastern Shore
Platinum print Collection 254
© Steve Szabo, used with permission of the artist’s estate
interior of an abandoned building
Steve Szabo
Interior, Christ M. E. Church, 1976
From the series Eastern Shore
Platinum print
Collection 254
© Steve Szabo, used with permission
portrait with flowers and bird
Robert Fichter
Dürer with Red Flowers, from the series Florida Photogenesia
1984 Silver-dye bleach print
Collection 132
© Robert Fichter, used with permission

bird stuck in web
Todd Forsgren
Puerto Rican Tody (Todus mexicanus), 2009
From the series Ornithological Photographs
Inkjet print
Accession no. P2016-07-006
© Todd Forsgren, used with permission

Installation Views


Aftermath: War is Only Half the Story

April 2 – May 25, 2018

The end of war does not mean peace. It is simply the end of death and destruction. Every story of war includes a chapter that almost always goes untold – the story of the aftermath, which day by day becomes the prologue to the future.

This exhibition presents images by over fifty photographers and is a ten-year retrospective of the work of the groundbreaking program The Aftermath Project, founded to help change the way media covers conflict.

Justyna Mielnikiewicz
Justyna Mielnikiewicz
A Ukraine Runs Through It
Two Gypsy sisters, Ruslana, 16, and Milana, 19, take an evening stroll along the Dnieper River. Dniepropetrovsk, Ukraine. April 2014.
Juan Arrendondo
Juan Arrendondo
Everybody Needs a Good Neighbor
Angél, 14, and Daniel (right), 16, members of the ELN Che Guevara Front pose for a picture at their camp in Chocó. The Che Guevara Front operates on the Pacific coast of Colombia patrolling important corridors to allow the export of cocaine to the Pacific Ocean and into Mexico. February 17, 2004.
Philippe Dudouit
Philippe Dudouit
Sahel—The Dynamics of Dust
(From left to right) Bibi, Al Hussein, Mohamed and Akli are part of a Tuareg rebels music band, founded by the Niger Movement for Justice, a primarily Tuareg militant group, to spread their message all over the Sahel region. In the 1990s, as the first rebellion took place, another Tuareg band became famous as far away as Europe. Northern Niger, 2008.

Public Program

4:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 19, 2018

War Is Only Half the Story:

Sara Terry, photojournalist & founder of The Aftermath Project

Photojournalist Sara Terry will discuss the constellation of issues facing communities following the “resolution” of armed conflict, focusing on the work of The Aftermath Project. A groundbreaking non-profit organization founded by Terry, The Aftermath Project seeks to change the way media covers conflict through grants awarded to working photographers, exhibitions, and educational outreach.

Free & open to the public

Support for the presentation of this exhibition at UMBC is provided by the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Friends of the Library & Gallery, the Libby Kuhn Endowment, and individual contributors.

War Is Only Half the Story is originated by The Aftermath Project, Los Angeles, and toured by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Pasadena, California.


Our People, Our Land, Our Images

Laguna Pueblo (b. 1925)
Lee Marmon
Laguna Pueblo (b. 1925)
Laguna Eagle Dancers, 1962
Black-and-white print

January 29 – March 18, 2018

Opportunities to view indigenous peoples through the eyes of indigenous photographers are rare and recent. This photographic exhibition features the work of indigenous artists from North America, Peru, Iraq, and New Zealand. Distinctive in its historical reach, the exhibition includes newly discovered 19th-century trailblazers, members of the next generation of emerging photographers, and well established contemporary practitioners.

Our People, Our Land, Our Images has been carefully constructed as a first person, indigenous account. Reflecting contemporary trends, the photographers and their subjects vary in style, from straightforward documentary accounts to aesthetically altered images combining overlays and collage. The variety found in the exhibition conveys the plurality of the indigenous voices and their concerns. The photographs are united, however, in how they convey their makers’ connections to the land, community, and traditions.

Ultimately, the multiplicity of perspectives represented by the exhibition and its texts sustains an open-ended experience that will actively engage audiences as they analyze how “the camera, in the hands of indigenous visionaries, becomes a tool or weapon that possesses the power to confront and deconstruct stereotypes, politics, and histories.” Our People, Our Land, Our Images provides insight into the variations in and history of bicultural identity. Further, the exhibition demonstrates the longevity and continuing vitality of native traditions of photography and answers the overdue and continuing need to expand the knowledge of indigenous self-presentation in photography.

Peña Bonita
Apache/Seminole (b. 1948)
Skywalker, 2006
Color print
Sama Alshaibi
Iraqi/Palestinian (b. 1973)
Olives from Gaza: The Bitter Dream, 2004
Digital print
Erica Lord
Athabaskan/Inupiaq (b. 1978)
Untitled (I Tan to Look More Native)
from the series Tanning Project, 2006
Inkjet C-print
Shan Goshorn
Cherokee (b. 1957)
Pawnee Woman in Field from the series Earth Renewal, c. 2002
Hand-tinted, double exposed, black-and-white photographs

Public Program

6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Artist’s Talk: Shelley Niro

Niro, who received her MFA from the University of Western Ontario, is an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist and member of the Six Nations Reserve, Turtle Clan, Bay of Quinte Mohawk.

Installation views


Man, Idea, Image: Photographs of Men from the Mark Rice Collection

Anderson & Low
Y, 1994
Gelatin silver print

August 30 – December 21, 2017

This exhibition presents images of the male body in contemporary photographs from the Mark Rice Collection. Engaging the complicated dynamics of looking at the male form, the myriad meanings, narratives, metaphors, mythologies, fears and celebrations of the male body are contemplated in the context of the history of art broadly, and post-Stonewall culture and the AIDS crisis specifically.

Public Program

4:00 p.m.
Thursday, December 7, 2017

Exhibition Talk: Dr. James Smalls, Professor, Visual Arts, UMBC

Dr. James Smalls will speak on The Mark Rice Collection and the Homoerotics of Photography after Stonewall.


The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature

Fictional Flying Creatures
José Segrelles
War of the Worlds, c. 1930
Mixed media

April 10 –May 16, 2017

Truly a vision of the fantastic, this exhibition is an amazing exploration of both illustrative art and the evolution of the visual landscape of science fiction and fantasy literature. Featuring work by both American and European artists and spanning more than a century, these vivid illustrations bring to life adventures, beings, and worlds conjured in novels such as Don Quixote, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Tarzan, and pulp magazines including Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Fantastic Adventures, and Wonder Stories. Accomplishing far more than simply guiding readers in their explorations of new and sometimes bizarre realms, the range and impact of these illustrations are far-reaching. The exhibition will also include books, pulp magazines, and other items drawn from UMBC’s Rosenfeld Collection, revealing how the illustrations in the Korshak Collection were meant to appear when encountered as artifacts of material culture.

Public Program

Artist’sTalk: Donato Giancola

5:00 p.m.Thursday, May 4, 2017

Award-winning illustrator Donato Giancola, best known for his endlessly creative and exquisitely rendered science fiction and fantasy illustrations, will discuss his broad range of illustrative work. Giancola’s diverse clients include DC Comics; Sci-Fi Channel; Wizards of the Coast (Magic: The Gathering); Tor Books; National Geographic, Milton Bradley; Microsoft; Penguin; Random House; Hasbro; Scholastic; Simon & Schuster; The Village Voice; CNN; United Nations; U.S. Postal Service.

Donato Giancola’s website:

About the Collection

The illustrations featured in this exhibition are treasured pieces of the Korshak Collection, owned by Stephen Korshak. The love of both literature and art of the science fiction and fantasy genres is a passion Stephen Korshak shared with his father Erle Korshak, a founder of the imprint Shasta Publishers, which specialized in science fiction books. Shasta played a key role in ushering in the transition that saw important science fiction literature move from the pages of magazines printed on cheap pulp paper to hardcover, library-quality books. Much of the illustration art for Shasta publications hung in the Korshak family home and the company office where, as young man, Stephen Korshak encountered it–a fact the now collector cites as inspiring in him a sense of wonder, and a passion for the illustrations of the genre.

Korshak Collection website:

Installation Views