Its been a long time since I last wrote on this blog. In fact, in a recent discussion with Prison Photography’s Pete Brook’s I even declared the blog near dead. But frankly I have not had the heart to shut it down because each time I do I find that someone is still reading it and insisting on discussing it with me. So it remains alive, though I do have to get back to writing more and speaking less. I seem to be making my arguments in person these days and avoiding putting down on the blog.
But a few days ago I came across the news that the magnificent, beautiful, passionate and brilliant photographer Maggie Steber – a woman who has not only been an inspiration, but also a strict mentor and a very serious motivator, has put together a KickStarter campaign called Rite of Passage on Madje Steber, her mother, and her struggle with dementia. What is remarkable about this work is that it veers away from the obvious and explores the very personal and surprising. For me this has always been one of Maggie’s strength – her ability to think and do so creatively while putting together a complex work without ever falling into the trap of the obvious. Her work from Haiti of course was always a standard against which I measured my own work from that country. Nothing meant more to me than Maggie’s comments and feedback about my stories from that country and the generous advice and suggestions she offered for ways to imrpove the work. And most importantly, for ways to to avoid reproducing so many of the cliches that plague reportage about Haiti and its people.
This work promises to be something really special. We already saw glimpses of this in Maggie’s work on memory, title Remember This which she shot for National Geographic Magazine. I think only Maggie Steber could have made that story pitch, – if you think about it you realize how difficult this must have been to argue, and convince the editors at the magazine to produce. Her images from that work are wonderful and I remember looking at them with envy thinking whether I would have been able to do the same. Probably not.
Maggie has always been reticent about opening her archives to the public. I have been begging her to do so and she keeps putting me off by telling me that she is working on a fabulous new website and that she will release it soon. I suspect that she is just making excuses. But the fact remains that we need to see and study her works, so that we can learn and to understand from her. And any project that allows us to see more of her images, more of her stories, has to be supported.
As is obvious by now, I am a huge fan of her work, and of her. Maggie has been a tireless supporter, a consistent mentor and someone who, despite her busy schedule and a thousand engagements, has always made time to answer my banal and amateurish questions about photography and projects. Her project, Rite of Passage, deserves our support and I encourage you all to do so. I think what will emerge, what will be offered to the world, will be something unique, intelligent and perhaps most importantly, something intensely human, and insightful. Its the only way Maggie knows how to be both as a person and as a photographer.