Saturday, December 5, 2009

Self is a Location

Be for Me, Like Rain (M.A. Reilly, Wall Street, NYC, 2009)

In Seamus Heaney's (2007) poem, "The aerodrome," he concludes:

If self is a location, so is love:
Bearings taken, markings, cardinal points,
Options, obstinacies, dug heels and distance,
Here and there and now and then, a stance.

Bridge in Fog (M.A. Reilly. George Washington Bridge, 2009)

I have long been enamored and intrigued by the people, locations, and circumstances native to Manhattan. Through my camera, I have sought to represent the bearings taken in ordinary lives: a couple out for a ride on a bike, a bridge in fog, a woman beneath an umbrella. Like most things human, Manhattan is a complex place, resisting the ease of categories. At once it is privileged, poor, nomadic, broken, healed, rooted, and common.

Etta and Butch Go for a Ride
(M.A. Reilly. Washington Square Park, 2009)

Although born in Ireland, I have grown up in the shadow of Manhattan and its rhythms have (in)formed the ways I see and fail to see. What I know about the geography of home has allowed me to look closer at all I don't know. In this manner, the familiar houses the unfamiliar, like an old woman houses her younger self.

Homeless (M.A. Reilly. 57th Street. 2009)

William Faulkner noted:
"I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it."
As an emerging artist, Faulkner's advice resonates with certain truth I turn an ear to hear.

This visual record, a portfolio of sorts,  is a testament of the bearings taken, markings noted, and cardinal points recorded. It is intentionally contradictory as stances are made (now and then) against such grain.

Take the A Train (M.A. Reilly. Harlem, 2009)

Through the lens, I have witnessed people love, be loved, and not. While shooting, I have found myself repeating a line in my head from Kathleen Norris's (2001) Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. She writes: "You have only to let a place happen to you...the loneliness, the silence, the poverty, the futility..." (p. 220).

It is in letting a place happen that I have learned (perhaps unlearned) how to hold still. A challenge that remains often uncomfortable and nonetheless important. This bearing witness is the closest thing I know to what might be called grace. As such it carries both burden and blessing.

Bearings Taken (M.A. Reilly. Brooklyn Bridge, 2009)

Works Cited
Heaney, S. (2007). District and circle. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.
Norris, K. (2001). Dakota: A spiritual geography. New York: Mariner Books.


  1. I love this post...

    The simplicity of your words are as complex as the images you have chosen to share & represent your thinking.

    I am drawn in by your love of a city I have only visited once but dream of often.

    I see the beauty you speak of in movies & television. I read about the city as if it were a living, breathing being.

    Thanks for (re)sharing a post you wrote what I am sure feels like a lifetime ago.

    I have met, yet again, another soul that has found their passion & voice as they compile their thoughts on what started as a blank screen.

    Blogging is, in my opinion, a powerful way to capture & spotlight an important part of who we are.

    1. Jana, thanks so much for taking the time to read and view this post. You are right that the post does feel like a lifetime ago as do the images. I am contemplating another go at making images each week in NY. If I do, I'll more than likely blog about the process. Is there a link to where I can see your work?

  2. You are most welcome... while I live in the biggest city in Saskatchewan, yet Canada, as a whole we are just over one million people. Talk about spreading yourself out on the prairies:)

    I would love to see another project come together Mary Ann.

    I blog here:

    Here is to more opportunities to connect!