The Briscoe Center has acquired the photographic archive of Mike Maple, a photojournalist who specializes in documentary photography. Maple has covered all manner of social issues in America over a forty-year career. In addition, he has worked around the world for major dailies and magazines, photographing presidents, musicians, and sporting icons.
“Maple’s photographic archive both enhances and compliment the center’s photojournalism collections, which together provide a rich visual history of American social, political, and cultural developments, especially in the post–World War II era,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “Sometimes, while on assignment, Maple has been mistaken for a social worker due to the places he would go and the care and attention he would pay to his subjects. This speaks volumes to his work as a documentarian of American life on the margins.”
Maple grew up in Tennessee. A photographer for his high school newspaper, he got his first break when visiting his grandparents in Kanas City in 1972. Former president Harry S. Truman died during Maple’s visit, and his funeral was in Independence, Missouri, ten miles from Kansas City. Maple showed up at the press center and told them he was a correspondent for The Pitchfork (his school paper). The officials issued him press credentials, and he photographed funeral attendees, including former president Lyndon B. Johnson.
The following year, he moved to New York City and (by pure persistence) became a photography assistant at Time-Life, mostly working for Sports Illustrated. Maple subsequently returned to Tennessee where he worked part-time for the Memphis dailies while studying at university. However, before long he was being offered lucrative magazine assignments, which caused him to drop out. Thus began a forty-year career that saw him work around the world for Time, SportsIllustrated, Newsweek, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel, as well as two decades in Memphis working for the Commercial Appeal.
“The news business gave me the opportunity to knock on any door and be a guest in the living rooms of strangers everywhere. It has enriched my life,” said Maple. “I am so grateful that the Briscoe Center wanted my work. I had been carting it around for years until my old friend Dick Swanson introduced me to Don Carleton and Alison Beck, director of special projects. I am hopeful that others enjoy my work and learn a bit about the world as seen through my eyes.”
Maple’s photographic archive includes correspondence, tear sheets, news clippings, negatives, prints, and related material ranging between 1972 and 2013. His social investigations, amply documented in the archive, covered a wide range of topics including religious life, homelessness, resettled refugees, rural life, and gang affiliation. Materials related to other notable assignments include Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign, Elvis Presley’s funeral, and the Salvadoran Civil War.