MIAMI HERALD | Their images tell compelling stories of women around the world, now on display in Miami
Maggie Steber has traveled to 71 countries as an award-winning photographer.
She has taken photos of a guerrilla war in Zimbabwe. In Haiti, she witnessed the atrocities of the end of the Duvalier regime. And she was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her years-long project documenting the world’s youngest face transplant recipient, an 18-year-old girl who underwent the procedure in Cleveland.
But the photos that mean the most to her are of her mother, Madje Steber, who was diagnosed with dementia at 80. The daughter of a single mother, Steber took care of her over a nine-year period and documented her mother’s decline through her photography, “Madje Has Dementia.” She died in Steber’s arms in 2009, one week after her 89th birthday.
“I didn’t really have anybody … I thought this is my last chance to love,” she says. “Photography really saved me. Those photographs are still my greatest treasures.”
The project landed on the cover of National Geographic and a two-page spread inside the magazine.
“So my little mama was a cover girl for NatGeo,” she said. “And I am so proud.”
Steber will be one of the panelists at the inaugural WOPHA Congress: “Women, Photography, and Feminisms,” co-presented by Women Photographers International Archive (WOPHA) and Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). The conference, to be held November 18-19 at PAMM and virtually, will bring together women photographers, scholars, curators, and artists from more than 15 countries, including Marie Robert, chief curator of photography at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris; Whitney Johnson, vice president of visuals and immersive experiences at National Geographic Partners; and Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, a documentary photographer and co-founder of MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora.
In concert with WOPHA, an exhibition of award-winning women’s photography from around the globe, titled, “Female in Focus,” will open Thursday at Green Space Miami, 7200 Biscayne Blvd. The opening is from 7 to 10 p.m. and it will run through January 18, 2022.
The exhibition, presented with 1854 Media and the British Journal of Photography, will showcase the works of the winners of the Female in Focus award, launched in 2019 to help correct gender imbalance in photography.
The idea for the Congress was born out of Aldeide Delgado’s desire to create a spot for women photographers that she felt was lacking in Miami. Born in Cuba, Delgado is an art historian and curator with a focus on feminist and Latinx art history. “For women photographers, we didn’t have a place we can connect,” said Delgado, founder and director of Women Photographers International Archive (WOPHA). “When I came to Miami…I noticed we didn’t have a dedicated place for the promotion of photographic arts.”
The Congress, sponsored by the Knight Foundation and others, is free. One of the three keynote speakers will be Roxana Marcoci, senior curator of photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
“When I was coming up in photography, there were a lot of women and even before me, powerful and courageous women covering everything from war to local stories, but many of them were on newspapers staffs and so you didn’t really hear about them,” Steber said. “We are now seeing a whole new generation of women photographers from all over the world.”
Steber will be part of a five-person panel discussing documentary photography.
“I love to encourage people to use their imaginations,” Steber said. “There will be opportunities to brainstorm with people and give them advice and that is just a joyful act for me.”