The Leica Gallery in Los Angeles presents the exhibition of Sleeping Beauty by American photographer Maggie Steber as an intimate visual account of her mother’s nine-year melancholic voyage into memory loss. An only child of a brilliant scientist, Steber used photography as a therapeutic tool to survive what she called the longest goodbye. In overseeing her mother’s care, Steber discovered the real Madje, not someone defined only by the role of mother, but as her own woman who her mother was and always had been.
It was by using the camera as a kind of shield against the deep grief of watching her mother disappear before her eyes that she began to see the woman instead of the mother.
In seeing her mother in this new way, Steber also discovered things she never knew as walls fell and new stories she had never heard were revealed.
Steber had never meant to share these photographs. She was just trying to make new memories to replace the ones that were disappearing. But during this long journey, she began to learn so much that could make a huge difference in the end of life care for our loved ones. And in so doing, Steber discovered the real Madje, not someone defined by the mother-daughter dynamic, which was not always very easy. Madje became a sexy woman on some days and other days someone who was terrified because she did not recognize her daughter.
So many aspects of Madje were revealed and this was a surprise ending.
“To see who someone really is and was, and to be left with a heightened sense of appreciation can change one’s whole life experience,” Steber wrote. “This was something I had not expected and it was a remarkable legacy, the most important legacy left to me by my mother…a last chance to really see who someone was, and a last chance to love.
Toward the end of her life we would lie on her big bed by the open window, a sigh of wind blowing the lace curtains over us. I wondered how she could be so beautiful at the end, even as her brow was knit with confusion. Madje died in my arms one week after her 89th birthday. As a last act before her cremation I braided her long hair and cut the braids, giving one to my mother’s main caregivers. When I miss her the most I smell the braid I kept for myself. It smells like Madje.”
Maggie Steber : Sleeping Beauty
Until February 27, 2023
Leica Gallery Los Angeles
8783 Beverly Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048