Story in Progress | excerpt| Half of a New York Map


Diane Arbus in Central Park, 1969, photographed by Garry Winogrand


Story in Progress | Excerpt | Half of a New York Map – Leona Lee Cully

Maeve studies her half of the map and flirts with the notion of walking only the remaining streets left on it. Then she changes her mind, crumples the map into a ball and throws it into a bin. She would walk without design or thought, and take pictures from instinct. A meditation of the streets.

Yellow cabs, the dizzying perspectives of sky scrapers, billowing steam issuing from the subway – the city staged its own clichés afresh each day. The lines of the Brooklyn Bridge. Women in trainers and tights and office wear. The ferry to Ellis Island. The black man break-dancing in Battery Park, chest bared, moving his limbs and torso with the expertise of a ballet dancer. Grace in his fluidity, in the smile on his face, in the sweat on his ebony-smooth back. 

In Central Park, a grown woman pushes a shopping-cart full of dolls. The woman, who is very tall and heavy, screams obscenities at passers-by and then stoops to comfort a doll, cradling it close. Diane Arbus would have tapped the woman on the shoulder and somehow connected with her. She would have ruthlessly captured the demented child-woman in the snare of her camera.

A black-and-white portrait of a woman with a pudding-bowl haircut and too-short bangs, clutching a one-eyed doll to her chest. 

Maeve is experimenting with colour after a monochromic year. She takes a surreptitious picture of the shopping trolley with its damaged cargo. All you can see of the woman is one of her hands as it cradles the chin of a blonde blue-eyed doll that sits in the child-seat of the trolley. The hand has filthy finger nails but the skin is surprisingly smooth and unwrinkled.

Maeve hurries on as she feels the gaze of the woman alighting upon her; a gaze like an instant snapshot that judges Maeve and finds her wanting. 


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