The publication Observed: Milagros de la Torre was a collaborative project between Americas Society and Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), which hosted the concurrent exhibition Indicios: Milagros de la Torre from March 6 - July 1, 2012. Featuring nearly 40 photographic works from the 1990s to the present, Observed was the artist’s first monographic show in New York. Focused on stark, object-based images, the catalogue examines contemporary issues related to violence, memory, and the socio-political construction of identity. As the exhibition’s curator Edward Sullivan has suggested, the notion of pain also plays a prevalent role throughout de la Torre’s work. Never displayed in an active or aggressive manner, physical or emotional trauma manifests itself through quiet allusion. Several of her series develop out of her own experiences in countries that have experienced waves of crippling violence, such as Mexico and Peru, or that have had extended periods of censorship.
De la Torre begins each series with an in-depth investigative process in libraries and archives. Research has served as a fundamental basis for her images, many of which are examinations of criminality and surveillance. The Lost Steps (1996) is a seminal project deeply informed by nineteenth-century photographic techniques. De la Torre employed these techniques to focus on images of incriminating evidence taken from the archive of the Palace of Justice in Lima, Peru during the violent years of the Shining Path. The seemingly everyday objects, shown in an isolated manner, convey stories of acts of terrorism, passion, and other crimes. In Censored (2001), using pages from seventeenth and eighteenth-century manuscripts from the collection of the University of Salamanca, de la Torre depicts passages inked-out by officials during the Spanish Inquisition. The series is encompassed by abstract images capturing the stroke and stain of each censored text.