Leica Gallery Los Angeles, (The Hollywood Times) 9-12-19
Story and photos by Jimmy Steinfeldt
The Leica Gallery in Los Angeles hosted a wonderful opening night for the photography of Jesse Diamond’s exhibit After Hours and Maggie Steber’s exhibit The Secret Garden Of Lily Palma.
Jesse’s photography is bold and some of his images show a sense of humor. Maggie’s photography is introspective and conveys her alter ego.
Jimmy interviews Jesse
Jimmy Steinfeldt: Tell me about the Leica you are using.
Jesse Diamond: All film cameras the MP and M6.
JS: Who does your processing?
JD: Back when I shot the pictures I had the film processed at A&I then I scanned and edited everything myself.
JS: When did you start doing photography?
JD: Photography found me when I was about thirty years old. I had previously taken pictures for years but had never seen photography as my profession. I was a musician but with photography there was a connection that I never had to music. I knew that it was me.
JS: Tell me about working with Leica Los Angeles and curator Paris Chong.
JD: Paris is amazing. She’s a great friend, supporter, and curator.
Jimmy interviews Maggie
Jimmy Steinfeldt: Where did you live when you started doing photography?
Maggie Steber: I grew up in Austin, Texas. Then I moved to New York City for quite a while. Then I moved to Africa for a couple of years and then I moved to Miami, Florida about 19 years ago.
JS: How did you come to use Leica cameras?
MS: I used Leica’s from the very start because my boy friend at the time was also a photographer and he convinced me they were the best cameras. I tried them and I found that they were the best cameras for me because the rangefinder is small and very sturdy. If I were attacked it is a very good weapon and that has happened a couple of times. I’ve covered war. I’ve also done photography for National Geographic. I’ve covered fashion and I’ve worked in 70 countries.
When I started I covered the news. The White House, and other stories. There was a lot of waiting and then you got 5 seconds to take photos. After a while that didn’t interest me. Then I learned how to do long form story telling and that really moved me forward. I did this on my own dime. I felt I had to invest in myself so I could show photos to people so I could get work. Also as a woman in a male dominated field, especially at that time, when I would walk into a room to cover an event with my Leica’s people would treat me differently. They took me more seriously. These cameras gave me confidence. I’ve really had a life I never expected to have and I’m grateful.
JS: Tell me about your work in this exhibit.
MS: It’s called The Secret Garden of Lily Palma. I’ve been in this business a long time and a few years ago I decided I had to re-invent my self because I think we have to constantly surprise people otherwise they put us in a slot. I’m a documentary photographer yet I wanted to expand. I decided I wanted to make a safe place where I could plant new ideas and try new things and not care if anybody liked it or not. It was very liberating.
A lot of these pictures reference my childhood. My mother raised me. I had a very active fantasy life. You might look at a picture and see one thing but there is a personal story behind it. I decided that the garden needed a mistress. I had always loved the name Lily. I thought if I ever was a writer my nom de plume would be Lily Palma. So Lily is the mistress of the garden. One picture has dead lizards. I live in Miami and there are lots of dead lizards. My cats kill them or they get in the house and simply die. This might sound crazy but I collect them, number them, put them in foil and freeze them. The only thing in my freezer are dead lizards and a bottle of vodka. Then I make these little scenarios for them. They are the sentries of the garden. They protect the garden. I love giving them a second life.
A lot of the pictures reference themes in my life such as a fantasy or something that has happened to me. Many of the themes are universal. There is a picture of a women reaching up to a heart that I call The Woeful Tale of the Withheld Heart.
JS: Which Leica camera did you use?
MS: I shot them with both the M series and the Leica S the precursor to the SL. Leica will loan me equipment if I need it. I have a lot of Leica film cameras that I don’t use any more though I still shoot film from time to time. There’s a certain color palette.
JS: What’s next?
MS: I’m doing a five day workshop here at Leica called Daring To See The World In A New Way. It’s meant to liberate people to come and try things they’ve never tried before. To be wild-at-heart. It’s meant to refresh you. It can reinvigorate your work. We don’t always give ourselves permission to do that. I provide new ideas on things like light and shadow. It can reflect life and death or love and loss. I try to give people new tools and new ways to think about things and see the world. It’s important to see the world and not just look at it.
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