This project has a special place in my life and career.

In 2012, I moved to Cuzco, Peru, to document the city’s sun celebration, known as Inti Raymi.

Crowd of people on a rolling hill with yellowed grass

Despite being Peruvian, I had never been to Cuzco before. In 2001, I had the opportunity to move to Miami, and the Imperial City of Peru could not have been further from my mind.

In order to graduate from Miami Ad School, I had to make a photo exhibit. I was studying photography and video at the time, and I felt that in order to create my best work, I needed to go back to my roots. At that moment I was interning with Annie Leibovitz at her studio in NYC, her first books (A photographer’s life) inspired me to document something personal, something new for me. So, I decided to return home and make my final exhibit about the country I was born in — about the very thing my country stands for.

What is Peru? For me, an important aspect of the country is its Incan roots. Every year in June, Cuzco celebrates the Inti Raymi, a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire that honors the god Inti (sun). My inspiration, pictures, and, ultimately, my exhibit stem from the festival, capturing the colors, culture, and faces of the people of Cuzco.

A woman bends over a yellow fieldA woman casually tosses some crops into the airTwo things inspired me to document Cuzco’s charismatic way of life: the daily work of its people (many of the city’s inhabitants work outside among the amazing landscape of Peru) and the ancient Inca textiles scattered across the festival.

Closeup of a pair of handsA woman dressed in a pink dress and hat walks down a dirt roadA mask salesman sits inside a full store

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Sandra Arenas
Sandra is a Peruvian-American photographer. In 2001, she moved to Miami, where she studied photography. In 2012, she moved to New York to intern at Annie Leibovitz's photography studio, and she has lived in New York ever since. One of Sandra's greatest motivations is watching her own work develop over time.