A Moment in Time

Cape Cod Home  /  Early Summer 2020 /

Writer: Allyson Plessner / Photographer: Mary Grace Leone 

With a timeless appreciation for the Cape and a camera in hand, Mary Grace Leone puts the classic beauty of the region into perspective.

Walt Whitman famously wrote, “Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” In the vibrant and challenging world of photography, where the slight shift of a shadow or a sudden flare of light can transform an image, Whitman’s poetic words take on new meaning. For Mary Grace Leone, photography is about preserving moments in time. Light, dark, and everything in between, her craft is in capturing memories. And, what better place to find vivid, joyful moments worth immortalizing than on Cape Cod?

“I have many fond memories of my Dad with a Canon around his neck,” recalls Leone. “Even as a little kid, I valued the ability of a photographer to capture a moment in time…forever. Great images have the ability to transport us and allow us, even for a moment, to revisit old friends and places from the past—even some that we may never see with our own eyes. I find value in preserving those very things for myself, my family, and those that enjoy my work.”

Leone has spent her summers on the Cape for as long as she can remember. One of her earliest memories is of watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin step on the moon through the grainy, black and white screen of a generator-operated television, as her family gathered under a starry night  at Nickerson State Park. It’s a memory that somehow perfectly illustrates what it means to love Cape Cod—to have a passion for simple, perfect instances, something that Leone clearly demonstrates through her photography. “I’ve seen so many changes over the years, and yet so much about the Cape remains the same,” says Leone. “From what I’ve heard from family that lives on the Cape full-time, that feeling of Cape Cod summers is one that never goes away. I like to call it, ‘a Cape Cod state of mind.’ It is, simply, good for the soul.”

Leone can often be found sitting on a bluff overlooking Marconi Beach as the first rays of dawn break across a deep navy sky. “It’s my favorite place on earth,” she says, “with or without my camera. Looking over the ocean and feeling so at one with nature is indescribably peaceful.” For Leone, photography has become a way to express that feeling of serenity, to capture a little piece of herself—the things and places she loves, the way she feels in a moment, the memories she cherishes—in a single photograph. “I typically am drawn to subjects and events that are timeless,” she says. “I’d like to think that my images evoke a memory, or a new discovery, or a new appreciation of the value of taking the time to observe the world through my eyes and my lens. I sometimes have a unique perspective on life, and I find great joy when I can translate that perspective visually. This is the ultimate reward of my craft.”

Leone has spent countless hours honing her craft—from early mornings up on the bluff to long nights watching the waves crash along the National Seashore. She advises new photographers to have patience, to understand and appreciate the subtleties of lighting, and, most of all, to enjoy every step of the learning process. “I really love the photography ‘ride,’” she says. “There’s nothing like a spontaneous road trip to the Cape with friends for an all-night shoot of the skies and landscape.” And of course, “We always manage to find some time for chowder,” she laughs.

Mary Grace Leone may be familiar to readers as the cover artist of June 2019’s Best of Cape Cod and the Islands issue, where her grand prize winning photo of her beautiful family enjoying an evening on the Brewster Flats captured the hearts of the staff here at Cape Cod Life and readers across the region and beyond. More of Leone’s work can be found at marygraceleone.com or on social media @marygraceleone.

Allyson Plessner

Allyson Plessner is a former editorial intern for Cape Cod Life and now works for the publication as a staff writer and digital media coordinator. Born in Florida, Allyson has been a lifelong summer resident of the Cape. She is a recent alumna of the College of Charleston, located in Charleston, South Carolina, where she completed bachelor’s degrees in both English and Spanish. In her free time, Allyson is an avid sailor, beach-goer, and—like her fellow Cape Cod Life colleagues—a dog-lover.