BOOKBIZ: Images of dogs add to contrasts of the Delta

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Published: April 21,2014

Tags: books, Business, Mississippi

» Delta Dogs By Maude Schuyler Clay Introduction by Brad Watson, essay by Beth Ann Fennelly Published by University Press of Mississippi $35.00 cloth back

» Delta Dogs
By Maude Schuyler Clay
Introduction by Brad Watson, essay by Beth Ann Fennelly
Published by University Press of Mississippi
$35.00 cloth back

Who doesn’t like dogs? This is a coffee table book that’s sure to bring smiles to a lot of faces along with some reflective pondering. The photographer of the popular Delta Land has turned her camera to the dogs of this region.

The Mississippi Delta is known for many things. It’s a land of stark contrasts in which rich soil produces an agricultural bounty as well as economic want. The Delta has compelled generations of writers, musicians, and artists to chronicle and engage its harsh and mysterious beauty. Seen through the penetrating lens of noted photographer Maude Schuyler Clay, the nearly deserted buildings and landscapes of the Delta are brought to life by the dogs that roam the wide fields and swamp-soaked shadows.

For the past 15 years, Clay has been driving the back roads photographing her native Delta. In the darkroom of her 100-year-old family homestead in Sumner, she has developed hundreds of images of eroding architecture, misty bayous, small stands of woods, endless rows of crops.

And now she presents her photographs of dogs. Clay has spotted and captured the elemental spirit of dogs eking out existences from this majestic landscape. In her iconic book Delta Land, Clay introduced the “Dog in the Fog,” the muscular lab standing watch in the mist and trees of Cassidy Bayou. This photo became widely recognized, and Clay wanted to further explore the relationship between the land and the numerous dogs populating its fields, bayous, and abandoned spaces.

This new book, Delta Dogs, celebrates the canines who roam this most storied corner of Mississippi. Some of Clay’s photographs feature lone dogs dwarfed by kudzu-choked trees and hidden among the brambles next to plowed fields. In others, dogs travel in amiable packs, trotting toward a shared but mysterious adventure. Her Delta dogs are by turns soulful, eager, wary, resigned, menacing, and contented.

Clay was born in Greenwood and assisted photographer William Eggleston. Her work 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. In 1999 University Press of Mississippi published Delta Land, which received the Mississippi Arts and Letters Award and the Mississippi Arts Commission Individual Artist Grant.

— Lynn Lofton, mbj@msbusiness.com

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