strays_280Between 1975 and 1995, a group of elderly German nuns living in Lima, Peru, acted as the intermediaries for the adoption of dozens of impoverished, illegitimate or unwanted children, finding them homes across Europe and the United States. They maintained contact with them from afar, exchanging photographs and letters. In 1979 I was one of them, but I remained unaware of the nuns for over 30 years.

In 2011, I returned to Lima to meet these nuns and discover my place of birth. While in Lima I divided my time between walking the city and visiting the nuns who still lived in their original 1950’s quarters in the back of a hospital they helped build called Clinica Stella Maris. I spent hours studying their photographic archives – mostly old pictures of orphans awaiting adoption or children recently adopted and their new families. My own family photographs were among the archives having been sent to the nuns via my great aunt for over 20 years without my knowledge. In “Strays” my photographs oscillate between the world of the nuns at Stella Maris, their archives, and one hot Lima summer – serving as a personal reflection on the meaning of family, biology, identity and birthplace.

Tarrah Krajnak