© Maggie Steber
It seems fitting that I’m sitting here on Mother’s Day writing about photographs I took of my mother, Madje, during her melancholic voyage into dementia. My mother died three years ago in August. You never really get over it.
For the past year, I’ve been working with Mediastorm on a piece Madje’s dementia and what happened on the other side of it. The photos are of her but at some point I realized the story is really mine. It’s painful some days to look at these photographs over and over again working on this project but it also makes me feel like she is still here, and there is something exquisite, even in missing her.
I didn’t start out to do anything with the photos I shot over the last years of my mother’s life. I did it for me, to have something, a new memory to show the last bright moments of her life along as she disappeared into memory loss.
I shot video and collected audio so I could hear her voice but she stopped talking. As time went on, she couldn’t form words or sentences. She would keep her eyes closed most of the time. As her only child, I had to do something to get through it. Cold as it sounds, in some ways, dementia gave me the mother I always wanted, someone easier, reasonable, less worried. I was able to look at Madje as her own person, not just my mother, with new things revealed constantly. At some point I realized that this was a story to be shared, not just to help people know what to expect and encourage family members to become warriors for their family elders, but to tell a kind of love story. These are some of my favorite photographs. Some are lovely, I think, because my mother looks lovely in them. Others spark tough memories.
— Maggie Steber
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