"My mother, my sister and me": Photographer and psychotherapist Christa Mayer shows touching family portraits in the Haus am Kleistpark.
Concentrated look in the mirror. Then a half-blind look into the void. About it hair and arms swirl around the head. Finally: the chignon. This sequence is one of many that Christa Mayer is exhibiting in her new exhibition: "My mother, my sister and I" in the Haus am Kleistpark. Like almost all the photos in the three rooms, the pictures of her old mother in front of the mirror are silver gelatin prints.
The photographer, who became known through her photographs from the long-term psychiatric clinic at Wannsee, presents never-before-published self-portraits next to pictures of her mother and her sister at Haus am Kleistpark. It is an intimate journey into the relationship between two generations of women, between mother and daughters. These include pictures of places she went on excursions to or details from her apartment. Her sister, a nun, walks among the trees of her childhood. Even the still lifes come as alive as a movie scene in the silvery prints.
Born in the last year of the war
With the same concentrated look, Christa Mayer sits in the corner of the gallery, drinking tea and talking about the photos. She was born in the last year of the war. Her mother was a chambermaid at the hotel her father ran. Her father was her role model. "I definitely didn’t want to be like my mother. I didn’t find her modern, not attractive … She had such a womanhood, and then came emancipation and the Marxist movement. And that’s when I rose above her a bit." The photographer became a psychotherapist, taking pictures on the side. She learned her trade at the famous Kreuzberg workshop for photography: "I always went to Kreuzberg singing."
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She didn’t really get to know her mother until after her father died, in the mid-eighties. "That’s when I found her quite amazing, with her stories and miracles. I discovered her beauty and she also became more and more beautiful."Growing up in Oehrberg in the Rohn, her mother knew countless traditions of the village and the surrounding area. For example, there was a legend that animals could talk at Christmas. A farmer, Hermann, then went into the barn one night to put the legend to the test and just at 12 o’clock one ox said to the other, "Tonight Hermann dies." And that same evening, according to tradition, he actually died.
Fairy tales and bible verses
The photographer captured some of these stories in a film that plays in the entryway. To calm, Italian-neorealistic images, you can hear the mother’s clear voice, carefree narration. Bible verses are repeatedly interwoven into the little fairy tales. At the end of the film, Christa Mayer sings an Italian women’s struggle song.
[House at Kleistpark; Until 13. March; Tue – Sun, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thursday until 8 p.m., free admission]
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The mother died in 2000. The exhibition, she says, was also a kind of revue for the photographer, who is now old herself. She recalls, "Just before she died, I was running behind her wheelchair with my recorder, and she had to laugh because I was so into her stories." Christa Mayer says she literally crawled into them.