Our seventieth interview in this series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer and artist Joy Barry from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, United States. This is a muscular and yet, oh so elegant interview with Barry, combining an easily worn erudition, with plenty of nous and of course the benefit of an unblinkered experience of her enlivened imagery. Enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, Lisa Mitchell, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Whalberg, Andrea Bigiarni, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios, Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer Graham, Cathrine Halsør, Paul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart), Karen Messick, Serap Utaş, MaryJane Rosenfeld, Paul Suciu, Susan Latty (@pause.and.breathe), John Nieto, Phyllis Shenny and myself, go here.
All images ©Joy Barry
What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
When I was a child I wanted to become a forensic pathologist – like Jack Klugman’s television character, Dr. Quincy. The design, beauty, and inner workings of the human body totally fascinated me. In fact, I would spend hours thumbing through the Encyclopedia of the Human Body and other anatomy books we had in our home, completely enthralled by the images and descriptions they contained. The notion that murder and other crimes against people could be solved by a dedicated and diligent medical examiner was all the motivation I needed to ignite my imagination and [early] aspirations of becoming a female version of Dr. Quincy.
In 1980, I attended Boston City Hospital’s School of Practical Nursing in Boston, Massachusetts. It was, by far, the most intense educational program I ever encountered; it was also one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of my life (up to that point). Being a city hospital, it was woefully under-funded, under-resourced, and under-staffed. Although each unit had one or two single rooms for patients who required isolation or supervision, most had multi-bed wards with 8, 10, or 12 patients who were only separated by threadbare privacy curtains. The patients were critically ill and the work required well-honed nursing skills along with equal measures of courage, ingenuity, compassion, humor, and grit. At graduation, I was presented with the “Clinical Recognition Award” – an honor the school bestowed on the student who consistently demonstrated exceptional clinical acumen throughout the program. I was so stunned, the student sitting beside me had to nudge me to get up and accept the award.
My first paid job was in our family’s nursing home: The Bradley Nursing Home in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. My mother’s childhood home became a boarding house as her older siblings grew up and went off to college or joined the military. My grandmother opened her home to women who needed a safe place to live and when they grew old and needed personal and medical/nursing care, the boarding house became a nursing home. In fact, it was the first licensed and Medicare-certified nursing home in the state. I held a number of positions there, including: Activity Aide, Laundress, Dietary Aide, and Nurse’s Aide. Mostly, I loved the women who resided and worked there – they were from all walks of life and their stories were incredibly powerful (and sad, magical, simple, humbling, poignant, funny, heart-warming, sweet, tender, enchanting, intelligent, brave, and inspiring).
Private or State school?
During the leaner years, I attended public school; when money was a bit more plentiful, I went to Catholic (private) school. Although both provided a sound curriculum, I preferred the public school milieu.
University or Work?
I was a very young single mother; therefore, I went straight into the workforce. However, I took classes whenever possible and eventually graduated from nursing school. I went on to complete my Master’s degree as well as numerous post-graduate courses and special certifications, including: Massage, Cranio-Sacral, and Aroma Therapies; Shiatsu; Legal Nurse Consulting; etc.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I come from a very long line of exceptional, strong, intelligent, independent, free-spirited women all of whom have influenced me in one way or another. My grandmothers and mother taught me the importance of kindness, honesty, adventure, and humor. My sisters taught me about love, empowerment, vulnerability, and commitment. My aunts, cousins, friends, and countless others filled in the gaps and continue to do so. I am blessed with some of the best friends anyone could hope for.
With regard to my artistic self, I also enjoy many mentors. I am grateful that our local arts center, the Cape Cod Arts Center, has a dedicated Digital Art Group. They offer workshops with well-known, highly regarded photographers and artists such as Barbara Braman, Meri Walker, Rita Colantonio, and others. Virtually, I am connected with countless others in the mobile/digital art community and am inspired on a daily basis by the incredible talent and creativity available on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
How physically fit are you?
I’m currently recovering from major back surgery; therefore, physicality is very important to me. I take 3-4 walks each day and am faithful to my prescribed physical therapy routine. I also walk and exercise in the pool whenever possible. Although walking is a very contemplative activity for me, I also keep my eyes peeled for interesting people, sights, and things to photograph.
Ambition or talent: What matters more to success?
To me, success requires both ambition and talent. It also involves dreams, goals, stick-to-itiveness, discipline, vulnerability, desire, sacrifice, and myriad other personal qualities and traits. At this stage in my life – having achieved much professional acclaim and success in my career as a legal nurse consultant and business owner – I’m able to more freely explore my artistic self and creative expressions. I’m developing my own creative “voice” and exploring a variety of styles…
How politically committed are you?
I live in the USA and am committed to our democratic ideals. I look forward to the day when we can say, with honesty and conviction, that we’re walking our talk…
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
I’m not hankering for anything material right now; I’m really quite blessed.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
My biggest extravagances are traveling and upgrading my iPhone and iPad when new and improved models are available.
In what places are you happiest?
I’m happiest in my beautiful and peaceful home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts – I love to see and smell the ocean every day. My heart is also sated when I’m able to spend quality time with family and friends.
What ambitions do you still have?
I love to read and usually dive into a new book each week. I also want to do more traveling; my Bucket List includes Egypt and the Northern Lights (not on the same trip, obviously!). I also want to cultivate some of the many stories I’ve created over the years and publish them as novels. And, I want to continue developing my photography skills (technically as well as artistically); exploring my creative self and voice; and expanding my artistic community…
What drives you on?
Inspiration drives me on – finding people, places, and things that inspire is important to me. Beauty drives me. Peace drives me. Courage drives me. Creativity drives me. As I mentioned, I belong to a wonderful group, Cape Cod Digital Artists, and I’m grateful for the inspiration, support, and community they provide – they drive me.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Raising a loving, kind, intelligent, courageous, witty, supportive, honest, appreciative man has been the greatest achievement of my life by far. Witnessing his loving relationship with his wife and their daughter is nothing short of inspirational.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
I find cruelty, hostility, and intolerance totally abhorrent.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?
My 20-year-old self would think (and say): “Wow! Look how far you’ve come! Look at all you’ve accomplished! Look how many people you’ve helped! Good on you, girl! You’ve done brilliantly! I’m so very proud of you!”
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
When I was a child, I had a tiny parchment book of love poems with exquisite, hand-painted illustrations. I cherished it and read it every night. It brought me such joy and hope for what the future could/would hold for me. I wish I still had that tiny, enchanting talisman.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
I think climate change and greedy, dishonest politicians are among our greatest challenges.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
Yes, I do believe in an afterlife. During my years as a hospice nurse, I had the privilege of being with many, many people at the [literal] end of their lives. These experiences taught me that there are mysteries we simply cannot know or decode, nor should we attempt to. Mysteries are important for our spiritual growth and development. Faith, by its very nature, involves an “unknowable” element. I have faith that there’s more to the enrichment of our collective consciousness than just our earthly experiences. What that is, however, remains to be discovered…
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
If 10 is the absolute best score, I would rate my life so far as a 9.5! I wonder what the future will hold for me (and whether I’ll need to expand the scale beyond “10” in order to account for all the fulfilling adventures yet to come)…
Thank you for reading my interview!
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