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Matinee: 'The Story Behind the Image with Maggie Steber' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

9 May 2020

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 252nd in our series of Saturday matinees today: The Story Behind the Image with Maggie Steber.

This 5:41 video by the Lucie Foundation is part of its The Story Behind the Image series in which a photographer takes you behind the scenes to put an image in context. But by the end of this clip, you may wonder if Maggie Steber hasn't actually managed to put the photographer in context, too.

And, as it turns out, it's a pretty good choice for Mother's Day.

Steber is a photojournalist who has covered conflicts in 70 countries. In addition to the 2019 Lucie Honoree for Achievement in Photojournalism, she has been honored by the Leica Medal of Excellence, World Press Photo Foundation, the Overseas Press Club, Pictures of the Year, the Medal of Honor for Distinguished Service to Journalism from the University of Missouri, the Alicia Patterson and Ernst Haas Grants, and a Knight Foundation grant for the New American Newspaper project.

That mother's funeral was a lesson about death, she tells us, that she put into practice as her own mother was dying.

And for over 30 years she has been covering Haiti, the subject of her book Dancing on Fire, a chronicle of Haiti, its tumultuous history and of the Haitian people's struggle for freedom.

The image she discusses in this video is the cover image of that book. It depicts a young man crying out his mother's name as her coffin is sealed at the cemetery.

A dramatic moment.

She had met the family only earlier that day when she asked them what was going on. They told her it was their mother's funeral. She had been killed at a polling place massacre when she tried to vote.

Steber had asked to accompany them to the cemetery. They invited her to come along, which is how she got the shot..

"They aren't stupid," Steber points out about the Haitians. "They want their stories to be told."

That mother's funeral taught her a lesson about death, she tells us, that she put into practice as her own mother was dying.

We'll let her tell that part of the story. Don't miss it.

Steber manages to sneak in two unforgettable photos she took of her mother, as well, even if this is supposed to be the story behind only one photo. "They're related," she says.

And they're a beautiful bonus for Mother's Day, too.


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