Mariah Leal Paes

Mom Tales


My mother is 43 and ’til 3 years ago she used to live by herself. After my grandfather died in 2012 due to Alzheimer’s complications, my grandma broke her arm. Then she chose to never leave the bed anymore. Her feet is atrophied and mom has to take car of her. They live together in a small apartment in my hometown. Mom was never able to take care of me. I had many homes. Seeing her having to take full-time care of her own mother feels weird. Mom’s star sign is Gemini: she has a very sensitive humour. Her mood is specially bad in the morning. Maybe this is my way of justifying her behaviours.



It must not be easy to have to wipe your old mother’s diapers, feed her in the mouth, no day off, specially if you are in a bad mood. Since I was young I’ve lived with mom’s spicy mood. I never understood it, although I sensed something was wrong. I left home early: I was only 16. I moved town and since that day I try to understand and accept my mother and her way of life. Mom is a drug addict. Her whole life she has been a constant user of cocaine, marijuana and nicotine. But I only figured out that many years later. I heard someone describing a cocaine addict and my mom completely fitted the profile. She confirmed to me. I thought of photographing mom so I could deal better with the situation, as a photographer, and maybe overcome some of my issues. But it turned out to be more complicated. Registering those scenes was the hardest thing ever, because deep down those are scenes I know by heart and I have been trying my best to forget them. Perpetuate them was everything I didn’t wanted to do. Somehow I managed to overcome my fear. This is my mom’s routine. Among cigarettes, diapers, drug trips, weaknesses and bad moods, some joy, some subtlety. The pictures show y mom as she is. I discovered that the image I have of her is very different from reality. And because I still admire her very much despite of all, there is no picture of her using cocaine. I could not make it.




I am 23 and photography is quite new to me. I am still learning my way around it. I like to shoot actions, real moments. And art.


FujiFilm/EPF Young Talent Award

The FujiFilm/EPF Young Talent Award is an additional grant for photographers under 25. Using David Alan Harvey’s words “A heart felt thank you also to FujiFilm for making it possible for the EPF to keep focus on the future generations, the young ones, the ones with a vision already making a mark now… and just might make another jump soon…”




8 thoughts on “Mariah Leal Paes – Mom Tales”

  1. Amazing work made more amazing by your young age. You are not only onto something-you have it. You have communicated so much through your imagery. Well done. Real. Intense and sad and beautiful too.

  2. i think this essay speaks to many…or will at some point in their life…having to take care of ageing parents….that lead picture IS the whole essay in one shot….i have seen many live this scenario and i think this series captures both the love and the frustration quite powerfully…..poignant text as well….

  3. A very intimate and educational essay; congratulations Mariah, you have learned at a young age that you don’t have to travel to exotic locations to photograph the human condition. Photographing family can be very rewarding and I suppose the secret is perseverance, that and treating it as the most important essay that you could possibly have. It may well be just that.


  4. Your grandmother reminds me so much of my mother in her final years, although the circumstances of their lives and the losses that caused each to withdraw from life and to enter into an inexorable state of decline are much different. Yours was the death of a husband, mine was the death of a God wholly committed to, with every fiber of being. If I survive long enough to complete what will be a most complex book you can see and read about it. For this reason, I have been slow to respond to your essay but you definitely have done an excellent, sensitive, probing, search in the creation of this essay.

  5. This speaks volumes, ageing and addiction combined. I am not a photographer,however I FEEL through photography. It is another language and you captured this work. CHEERS!!!!

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