Thursday, November 6, 2008

Personal Project - Susana Raab

above images ©Susana Raab

When I first looked at Susana Raab's images I laughed a bit at the quirkiness and subject matter. Her personal project, Consumed | Fast Food in the US, was the one that stood out the most to me. What I really love about this series however is the storytelling effect and not the typical cliche shots of fast food, obesity, and unidentifiable ingredients. It's really a cross-country journey of a photographer observing the effect and influence of fast food in the U.S.

What made you choose this project?
I returned to grad school in 2003 at Ohio University's School of Visual Communications with the intention of focusing on a long term series and redefining my career as a photojournalist. I chose fast food after reading Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation because the idea of illustrating this problem challenged me. It was an ubiquitous problem that affects us all, whether we eat fast food or not, and it's a subject that is located in our backyard. Yet the problem of illustrating it without focusing on pictures of obese people or people eating food and the resulting visual cliches was huge. Despite the difficulties of illustrating it, I was committed to focusing my time and energy on a subject I felt had not been explored exhaustively. In the end this project is about consumption which to me is one of our more interesting modern dilemmas. I also share the same birthday as Big Mac, yes, we debuted on the same day. And my great-grandfather was a distinguished professor of animal husbandry at Penn State University, author of the The Meat We Eat (sadly out of print today). So my concern with food, how we make it and how we eat it, is in the genes.

How many photos were there before you edited it down to the featured images?
This is impossible to say, the project is on-going, dovetailing nicely with another project I'm working on about America at leisure. I've been working on it sporadically for 4 years, I edit straight from the negatives and very selectively, so I have only made prints for about 30 other images you do not see on my website. But I'm getting back film today so that might change by this afternoon!

What was your favorite aspect of this personal project?

There are many aspects about this project that I am grateful for: I have found a voice in this series that very much represents my inner monologue. I've always enjoyed humor, and I believe I've found a way to express something very important, but do it in an unexpected way, so people are more accepting of it, and then the message slyly sneaks in. That's my intention at least. I like to call it the Mary Poppins effect, as a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Like many photographers I love having that passport to trespass, to travel around and familiarize myself with the American milieu, sundry as it is.

These pictures are mostly impossible to plan, as they are all documentary and unstaged (with the exception of a couple of portraits) - so it's really helped hone my awareness and presence while I'm concentrating on making the work. But sharing the work and surprising people is definitely the most fun. I love it when people tell me that first they laugh when they look at my pictures (with, not at - I hope!) and then they think about the pervasive presence of this industry and the deeper message behind these photographs. I'm an English major and one of the lessons I took from that education was that humor and tragedy are intertwined.

Susana is a documentary and editorial photographer based in Washington D.C. Check out this project and Susana's other work at
blog comments powered by Disqus