Checking in with Mary Motley Kalergis


Documentary photographer Mary Motley Kalergis’ work is on view at McGuffey Art Center through June 27, alongside photos of prominent local women in the arts.

What are you working on right now?

I recently hung a group show at McGuffey that’s a fundraiser for the Piedmont Council of the Arts. The exhibit is called “Women in the Arts.” It’s a photography exhibit that is curated by Tom Cogill, who is a photographer himself. He’s on the board of the Piedmont Council of the Arts, and he invited 12 women photographers to photograph their favorite artists in the community. So it’s a really neat show, because we have such a great, vibrant and vital visual arts community, although it’s not just visual arts—it’s writers and dancers and anybody in the creative arts.


Tell us about your day job.

I’m a full-time photographer. I polished up seven monographs of photography that I’ve had in a couple of traveling exhibitions, and at this point I’ve been in dozens of other collections of books, including seven of my own.


What music are you listening to lately?

My music goes all over the map. I like rap and I like opera. Just about everything in between. I think I like what’s called “smart chick” music. You know, singer-songwriter women that play their own music, I like that a lot. I worked to Annie Lennox today, I love her stuff. 


What is your first artistic memory from childhood?

I have very visual memories. Some people, I think, remember scents or sounds, but I really remember, and my husband doesn’t believe me, but I swear I can remember sitting in my crib and watching the sunlight go through the lace curtains and make shadows on the wall. And I thought it was so neat. I saw the curtain, and I saw the shadows of the curtain on the wall. If you think about it, that’s what a photograph is: sort of a painting of light. 


Favorite artist outside your medium?

I think the artist that probably has had the most impact on my point of view is Tolstoy, the Russian author. I’ve read everything he’s written, sometimes many times over. The world through his eyes is a vision that has a frame I can hang onto.


If you’re cooking a meal for yourself, what do you make?

That’s a tricky question, because I love to cook for friends and family, but I never cook for myself, so probably just a bowl of cereal. I have a large family, and it’s nothing unusual to have five or six new people around the kitchen table, so I usually make something that involves large amounts of tomatoes and pasta. 


If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who and why?

Just one? Barack Obama, definitely. I love smart men; I think I would just be in a thrall.


Do you have a favorite building?

My house. I love my house. I don’t want to live anywhere else besides my house. I look at it sitting there, on the rolling hills, and it just looks like the Good Ship Lollipop to me. It makes me feel safe and happy.


What is your favorite hidden place?

One of my favorite spots on earth, and I don’t go there enough, is a hammock under a willow tree down by our pond. It’s lovely, and I should go there more often. Thanks for reminding me.