Susana Raab is a documentary and editorial photographer who creates warm, and often quirky images of people and places, familiar and strange. She approaches subjects with a generous spirit and sense of humor. Relying on a combination of color, composition, and movement, she balances poignancy and whimsy to create modern yet timeless images for her clients. Her work has received recognition from numerous sources including the Lucie Awards, American Photography 24, Photo District News, The Camera Club of New York, PhotoEspana, the White House News Photographers’ Association, The Ernst Haas/Golden Light Awards, and the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities. Her photographs have been exhibited nationally and internationally.
Because you so clearly capture people in the moment, is your method to shoot a lot of photos of a subject or to shoot a few and move on?
‘How I shoot really depends on the situation. My training as a photojournalist really taught me to “work the situation.” But often times because I am constantly scanning a crowd, there may not be much of a situation to work, the moment really is just that. So it depends on what I can do, if it is something that is unfolding and I have the opportunity to work it I will. But often it is something I see and compose, and then the flash goes off and that is it, the moment is gone. It makes editing easier, no obsessing over which frame, but I am often thinking to myself,”Whew, that was a close one.” Since I am shooting with a medium format rangefinder, I sometimes am not completely certain that the moment if kinetic, was in my focal plane’.
How do you find being a photographer in DC? Apart from you personal work, what type of projects are you commissioned to photograph?
‘Well, I’m here in DC because my partner has a great job here in DC – not because I think it is the best editorial market for my work. But I love the town, it’s like living in a giant park with great museums and restaurants, and smart people. Of course you also have the other extreme, urban poverty and all that goes with it. I do a lot of travel work that gets me out of DC, I do a lot of portraits here in DC, and occasionally I get great feature stories in the mid-Atlantic that are totally up my alley. It’s a real mix, and I’m constantly working on getting more work that plays to my strengths’.
What are you looking for in a subject when deciding to photograph them?
‘Well my interests are myriad – so my subjects are too. For two of my personal projects, Consumed & Off-Season, I don’t consider the people in them my subjects so much as players in this great American tableaux I am trying to capture. Other subjects become more obvious: to photograph workers in the tomato industry that puts catsup and tomatoes in fast food restaurants I look for migrant workers in Immokalee, Florida, to photograph the homes of Southern writers who inspired me I photograph the physical absence of these writers, but their intangible presence in their homes. And if you are asking me how do I find the subjects of the personal projects I shoot, there is an endless loop going through my head, I am inspired by reading mostly, and just the random eureka moments you have every day. I try and carry a notebook around all the time. I am not always successful. The problem is not generating ideas, the problem is limiting them!’
What kind of camera do you use?
‘I use a Mamiya 7, a Holga, and a Crown Graphic 4×5 for my personal work and Nikon Digitals for most of my editorial work’.