Audacity of Beauty: Maggie Steber
I just came across this after searching “Maggie Steber.” When I first got accepted at PJ school Maggie was a visiting instructor. Because I was a transfer student they said “You can’t take the class.” I had already been published and had worked for papers, but the school politics were powerful as well as confusing. “Why?” I asked. They literally had no answer other than a repeated “no,” but my roommate did take Maggie’s class and I was able to live a little vicariously through him.
You can tell Maggie is cool less than five seconds into this film simply by her smile and body language. And having run into her many times over the years I can say that she is always that way. Not to get too Santa Fe on you, but she has great energy.
I have to say, I wish all of you could see the book of this material because I really think these particular images, and the way she shot them, look SO GOOD on paper, better than they do on screen, and at a far larger size. There is a texture to these photographs, a texture that FEELS earthy, human, bloody but in some odd sense, joyful, and there were some heavy things going down during Maggie’s time in Haiti.
This is classic photojournalism and classic documentary photography rolled into one. There is something else here that I want to speak to without getting lanced. These images are dated. Sorry Maggie, but here is the thing. These are dated in a GOOD way. The word that comes to mind when I see these is “purity.” These were made before the computer was a reality and subsequently the images were left alone. She allows for her light and timing and composition to speak as opposed to INSANE sharpness, color and beyond specific, pixel by pixel image manipulation. I’m sure what we are doing today will also become dated, as do most styles, so I find perhaps a nostalgia here that I really feel for.
I also just noticed that the introduction was written by Amy Wilentz. Guess what book I had next to Maggie’s? Yes, I have every book ever published. Now I just ruined my own evening because these two books are staring at me saying “Hey loser, where have you been.”