Liz Kuball's blog is where I first encountered the work of Susana Raab. And when I saw her mesmerizing images from Bolivia for the New York Times recently, I just wanted to get on a plane to South America to follow Susana's footsteps and explore Bolivia, that is how excited I was by her photographs. Since that was not possible right away, I proceeded to do the second thing that came to mind, which was to email Susana and request an interview. She kindly agreed and very compellingly spoke about her process and how to keep the pictures coming.
Bolivia © Susana Raab
NP: Tell us a little about yourself.
SR:. I am terrible at answering open-ended questions! I live in D.C., right across the street from the zoo, with my partner, Stephen
Mongolia © Susana Raab
NP: How did you discover photography?
SR: It was really a Eureka moment. I was in graduate school in English at University of
Peru © Susana Raab
NP: Where do you find inspiration?
SR: I'd say most of my inspiration comes from reading. I'll pick up anything to read. I troll waiting rooms just to sample new literature (well, not quite). Lately it's been the sun magazine, Wendell Berry, The
D.C. © Susana Raab
NP: How do your projects come about?
SR: Of the 3 personal projects I'm working on right now, two were started as school assignments (though I knew I was going to pursue consumed before I went back to grad school and it was a major reason I wanted to go back was to develop something like this), and one was a newspaper travel section assignment (a sense of place) to photograph Flannery O'Connor's farm inMilledgeville, Georgia. But I have 3 nascent projects additionally right now - one is just a portrait of my adopted hometown, D.C., b/c why not? It's a really interesting city that most people have no clue about beyond the white pillars and podiums, one idea I'm going to work on this winter, is an idea I'm developing from a conversation I had with someone I met at a conference, and the third is about Peru, my country of birth.
If you mean, how do I fund them or get them published? I just save my nickels and dimes and live low-budget, especially when traveling. I ansel-
And then getting published is the usual rigamarole of taking your wares around to your contacts and wringing your hat and telling your story and hoping they will bite. But I am looking for other ways to modify this process. For example, via my blog and website, I am selling a limited edition magazine, rank strangers, of work from my consumed and off-season projects, and will debut a second from the Sense of Place series later this fall. If these ventures are successful in paying for themselves, and adding a little more to the production pot that will be fantastic to help me produce more work. Maybe it is too micro-business, who knows?
The hardest thing for me since I am so over the map with all my projects and always pursuing something, b/c I get burned out on one, and inspired by another, and then the situation reverses, is finding the time to get them all done. But I enjoy the process so much, so if I can earn a living and still produce the personal work - then I'm not in a huge hurry for completion, because making it is the best part.
A Sense of Place © Susana Raab
NP: What's next?
SR: The website redesign/update. Then perhaps a trip to
NP: Thank you so much!