home » archive » Patrias Obscuras: Peru and Mongolia

Photographs by Susana Raab
March 5 - March 30, 2009









The images photographed in Patrias Obscuras reflect my own personal journey through two countries: Mongolia and Peru. From my earliest days making photographs while teaching English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Outer Mongolia to currect selections from more recent travel assignments and personal work created in my country of birth, Peru.

Patrias Obscuras translates roughly along the lines of half-known homelands, and so my visual impressions of Peru and Mongolia are the somewhat vague first impressions of an expert sojourner. My experiences in the Peace Corps made Mongolia a logical returning point when I wanted to create a more crafted story of the place I had lived in before developing the photographic language to properly record my impressions. At the time I made a trip back, in 2001, Mongolia was experiencing extreme difficulties, the result of a natural disaster, Dzud, meaning black winter. After years of summer droughts, winter blizzards were decimating weakened livestock, upon which nearly a 1/3 of the population of this country of nomadic herders depends for subsistence living. The portrait of Mongolia in this exhibit is a bleak but loving sketch of a place I was privileged to know.

In 2001 I began to visit Peru regularly, where I had been born and lived briefly before moving to the U.S. This was a country that remained unknown to me, but which I was discovering with camera on travel assignments. In 2008 I began a series on Peruvians at the beach, depicting more the class system and service class. I am looking to move beyond the Peru as llama-filled country of Andeans. I'm attempting to reconcile my own small place in it through this examination of coastal Peruvians.

~Susana Raab

Susana Raab is a documentary photographer based in Washington, DC. Her work on fast food culture in the U.S., Consumed, has exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently at the NY PhotoFestival, Museo del Arte Contemporaneo, Madrid; and the Noorderlicht Photofestival, the Netherlands. She began her career as a photojournalist covering politics in Washington, DC, primarily for The New York Times. Other projects include: A Sense of Place; a look at southern writers William Faulkner's, Eudora Welty's and Flannery O'Connor's homes; Off-Season, exploring America at leisure; and La Mar: coastal Peru.

Her show Patrias Obscuras (Half-Known Homelands), is a survey of work spanning 12 years in which Raab examines two countries: Mongolia, where she served as an English teacher in the Peace Corps in the mid 90's; and Peru, her country of birth.

Susana is a recipient of a 2009 artist fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts, among other honors. More information can be found at www.susanaraab.com