Bringing Out the Magic in Mamika

Laurie and Debbie say:

Mamika in her helmet and cape, holding up one end of a small car so her dog can stand under it.

At My Modern Met, Eugene is blogging about this marvelous series of grandma-superhero photographs.

A few years ago, French photographer Sacha Goldberger found his 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother Frederika feeling lonely and depressed. To cheer her up, he suggested that they shoot a series of outrageous photographs in unusual costumes, poses, and locations. Grandma reluctantly agreed, but once they got rolling, she couldn’t stop smiling.

Frederika was born in Budapest 20 years before World War II. During the war, at the peril of her own life, she courageously saved the lives of ten people. When asked how, Goldberger told us “she hid the Jewish people she knew, moving them around to different places everyday.” As a survivor of Nazism and Communism, she then immigrated away from Hungary to France, forced by the Communist regime to leave her homeland illegally or face death.

Aside from great strength, Frederika has an incredible sense of humor, one that defies time and misfortune. She is funny and cynical, always mocking the people that she loves.

With the unexpected success of this series, titled “Mamika,” Goldberger created a MySpace page for his grandmother. She now has over 2,200 friends and receives messages like: “You’re the grandmother that I have dreamed of, would you adopt me?” and ” You made my day, I hope to be like you at your age.”

Initially, she did not understand why all these people wrote to congratulate her. Then, little by little, she realized that her story conveyed a message of hope and joy. In all those pictures, she posed with the utmost enthusiasm. Now, after the set, Goldberger shares that his grandmother has never shown even a hint of depression. Perhaps it’s because her story serves some sort of purpose. That through the warm words of newfound friends, she’s reminded of just how lucky she is to be alive.

giant Mamika in helmet, holding her cape out over cars that come up to her ankles

There are 15 more photos at the link, and even more that Eugene put up in a later post.

We love several things about these pictures. First, they reflect what Laurie does in her very different portraiture: they are clearly collaborations between the model and the photographer. Whatever Frederika knew about superheroes when they started shooting, she clearly got into the right spirit, and her body language and facial expressions very much seem to show her embodying a superhero.

Second, they are imaginative and whimsical, and they make use of what’s there in the person. Perhaps because of her Nazi-fighting history, and also perhaps because of who she was in his life, Goldberger must have had some idea of his grandmother as hero, an idea that perhaps she lost for a while. So while many devoted grandchildren would visit a lonely grandmother a lot, Goldberger used his own vision and sense of her to create a magic around her, a magic that seems to have helped not only her, but many other people as well.

Close-up of Mamika with helmet, raygun, and implacable expression

Maybe not all grandmothers are potential superheroes (maybe they are), but most people have traces of mythical qualities in their lives, ways in which they can be shown themselves as something greater than their day-to-day lives. It’s wonderful (in the literal sense of “full of wonder”) to see an example of this brought out for others to share.

Thanks to wordweaverlynn for the pointer.