Bite! magazine

The Sisters of Charity by Mae Ryan  November 19, 2010

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General statement by Mae Ryan

I’m attracted to the bizarre, the banal and the beautiful hiding in the world around us. Documentary photography allows me to catch glimpses into the intimate details and idiosyncrasies of other people’s lives. It is these unseen inner worlds that simultaneously haunt me and push me to keep exploring the lives of others.

Artist Testimonial

In 1960 there were more than three thousand nuns in the Sisters of Charity order of New York; today there are just over three hundred. Eighty of these sisters now live in Mary the Queen Convent in Yonkers, New York. The building is divided into individual rooms each equipped with a twin size bed, tv set, la-z-boy chair, a shared bathroom and a small closet for all of their possessions. Many of the women can no longer take care of themselves and must rely on the full time staff for their daily needs. The sisters fill their days with group exercise, bingo, crafts and prayer as they linger in life before death.

As I got deeper into the project some of the sisters divulged to me their fear of death and the unknown, while others spoke of finally reaching Jesus. Over the course of the three months that I worked on the project three sisters died and the reality of their dwindling population became a reality for me as well.

Throughout my life I’ve been surrounded by spiritual people. I was raised Buddhist, my mother’s side of the family is Jewish, my father’s side is Catholic, my aunt is a nun and my uncle is Hindu. Having had the chance to explore these different views, I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the various ways that all of these religions deal with death and how these views affect the way that people choose to live.


Mae Ryan (1987) lives and works in New York City, USA. Weblink: maeryan.com


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