Mary Cawley at the SSDP Gallery

As a young girl, I would sit and listen to my grandfather’s stories. He was an imaginative storyteller, bringing to life stories of our family and his growing up in Ireland. The pictures we saw in our minds were created from hearing his words, since Pup never had a camera. The story time spent with my grandfather planted a seed that grew over the years into a love of photography.

I realized the importance of memories. I learned that remembering both the distant and recent past brought smiles, joy and laughter to the lives of my family, friends and me. Pup made us giggle and captivated us with his words, but I realized showing a photograph while telling a story triggered people’s memories even more.

My first camera was a toy. I can still remember turning the red, plastic cube which sat on top of the camera and served as the pretend flash. While it never actually took a single picture, the fun of snapping the button to freeze my favorite moments stays with me until this day. My uncle gave me my first opportunity to use a real camera when he handed me his Polaroid. Snapping away, then watching the white-rimmed square with a blurred image slide out from the front of the camera was thrilling to me. I would gently wave and easily blow on the blurred image in hopes that it would speed the development of my captured moment.

It was my mom though, who gave me the gift of photography. She bought me my first camera. I snapped a photograph for every blink of my eye – family members, the beach, the city. When my eye saw one of those special moments, I quickly clicked the button.

Photography has been close to my heart from the days of sitting around the table, listening to Pup’s stories. Also close to my heart is teaching. I have taught elementary school students for many years. Each day I am with my students, I hope to affect their lives in a positive way and help them to be better people. Maybe years down the road, my students will see a picture of a school and while it may not be a picture of the school they attended, maybe they’ll be reminded of the happiness they had in my classroom. I hope the same for those who see my photographs. Maybe as you look at one of these canvases, you will be reminded of the happiness you have had in your life.