Internationally acclaimed documentary photographer, educator and photo editor, Maggie Steber, explores her self-proclaimed dark side in “The Secret Garden of Lily LaPalma.” The photographic series is the subject of a current exhibition at The Gallery at Leica Store San Francisco and an upcoming show at the Half King in New York City. A sharp departure from her well known documentary aesthetic, Steber was awarded a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship for the work, which documents Steber’s subconscious and imagination in photographs captured by her alter-ego, Lily LaPalma.
In the artist statement for “The Secret Garden of Lily LaPalma” Steber says the series is made “in the shadows of a dark side” of her psyche that she has chosen to revisit. The photographs, she explains, reveal her “fears and private memories.” The unrehearsed images are not meant to perfect because “reality isn’t perfect,” says Steber, “it’s messy and the imperfection of these spontaneous moments reflects what I’m after.”
The Garden, a place of danger and beauty, is where Steber feels free to let loose her “animalistic wild creative spirit” and joyously rebel against the “tyranny of the documentary photography” that has described her for decades. She reflects on a myriad of influences dating back to her childhood such as mysteries, horror films, science fiction and poems like “Dante’s Inferno.”
Making Peace with Her Mother’s House
Two-Minute Interview: Maggie Steber on Making a Life-Changing Portrait of her Mother (for PDN subscribers; login required)